Edmund Chen recounts his shock when doctor said son Yixi's eye had to be removed

Edmund Chen with son Yixi, daughter Yixin, and wife Xiang Yun.
PHOTO: Instagram/chxnyixi

It's not a stretch to say that it is every parent's nightmare to hear that your child has to undergo a serious operation and worse, you can't be there for them.

That's what happened to local veteran actor Edmund Chen who recently recounted how his son (and also an actor) Chen Yixi, now 30, contracted a cornea infection leading to a partial loss of vision in his left eye.

The 60-year-old was a guest on radio station Love 972's programme Breakfast Quartet and shared this shocking tale.

He said that Yixi, who was a teenager then, used to wear spectacles but would bump into things because he was quite careless. So, a friend offered to sponsor some hard contact lenses that Yixi would wear overnight instead of using his glasses.

Edmund said: "I thought it was a good idea since he wouldn't have the problem of knocking into things again. He tried the lens on but [his left eye] got inflamed... I thought it would resolve overnight and that it would recover on its own."

However, the condition worsened and the next day, Edmund was shocked to see that the sclera of Yixi's eye was red and his iris had turned grey.

"That's when I knew [the situation] was really serious. We were really afraid and told him to go to the hospital. I had to attend an event and Xiang Yun was busy filming, so we told him to go to the hospital by himself," he shared.

And during the event, just before he was about to go on stage, he received a call with some bone-chilling news.

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"The person on the other line said, 'Mr Chen, we have to remove your son's eye.' They said they were worried that the infection would reach his brain."

Edmund thought he had misheard the doctor because "he said it very casually", so he excused himself to head to a quieter place and got the doctor to repeat himself.

He admitted: "When he said the same thing again, my mind went blank and I didn't know what to do."

Unfortunately, Edmund wasn't able to rush down to accompany Yixi because of his work. By the time he wrapped up, his son was out of surgery; but there was a silver lining — the doctor decided against removing the eye and instead, drained the pus by bursting the sac.

For weeks, pus was oozing out of Yixi's eye (which had become more swollen) and it had to be cleaned off every two to three hours. It also affected his sleep as he had to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to the wound.

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His son's condition weighed heavily on Edmund and Xiang Yun as they spent around eight years looking for a cure.

"We tried everything from western doctors to traditional medicine… We spent seven or eight years looking. We even went to Taiwan in hopes of finding a cure. I went to temples, churches, and just about everywhere to try to find a way to make things better," he confessed.

It was Yixi who stopped them. One day, the young man observed that his father seemed to "be having a hard time" and told Edmund not to worry because he's "gotten used to it".

Fortunately, Yixi got a partial cornea transplant during his time in the army and has recovered 75 per cent of his vision in his left eye.

bryanlim@asiaone.com