He calmed down patient's knife-wielding wife

Mr Mok Chee Peng, a senior medical social worker with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
PHOTO: He calmed down patient's knife-wielding wife

SINGAPORE - Medical social worker Mok Chee Peng had taken a patient home from hospital last year when he came face to face with the man's furious, knife-wielding wife.

But Mr Mok, 38, stood his ground. He shielded the patient and his colleague, Ms Dorea Quek, 23, who crouched behind him.

Kitchen knife in hand, the hostile wife hurled vulgarities at the patient while Mr Mok, who is a senior medical social worker with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, tried to appease her. "I said, 'Calm down, calm down, Auntie; we cannot talk with a knife. You might hurt yourself.'"

It turned out that the woman's husband had left her for more than a decade without contributing to the household. He had slept at void decks, returning home only when he was stricken with Parkinson's disease.

After negotiating for 15 minutes, Mr Mok managed to calm her down and left safely with the patient and Ms Quek, both of whom were stunned by the incident.

Said Ms Quek, his junior colleague: "Many would dismiss the woman as crazy. But Chee Peng talked to me and made me see the situation and why the wife was frustrated."

Mr Mok's empathy has shone through many times. On another occasion, while comforting a dying patient, he clasped her hand when she reached out to him even though she had just coughed a bloody substance onto it.

"This was against hospital protocol because we didn't know if it was infectious," said the social worker, who has close to a decade of experience. "But she was anxious and I sensed that these were her last moments. What she needed was a human touch."

"I felt her squeeze my hand gently and she went, very, very peacefully," Mr Mok recalled, tearing up. "It's times like these when I know that being a social worker makes a difference."

This article was published on May 15 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.