'I was determined to fight': Polio sufferer defies odds to share her story

Fighting Spriit: Dr John Arputhan Abisheganaden, holding the new book, and Ms Goh Bee Hong.
PHOTO: 'I was determined to fight': Polio sufferer defies odds to share her story

SINGAPORE - If her doctors had been right, she would have died four years ago, after her lungs collapsed and she had been in a coma for two weeks.

But Ms Goh Bee Hong, now 52, fought hard to stay alive and defied the odds because she wanted to prove her doctors wrong.

"I want to live a life of my own and I was determined to fight," said the gritty woman, who has been fighting for a normal life since she was struck with polio at three.

Her story is among the 43 experiences shared by doctors and patients from the National Healthcare Group (NHG) in a new book, "Our Shared Stories. Same Same Yet Different. Our Shared Future".

For close to 50 years of her life, Ms Goh has been in and out of nursing homes and hospitals.

After contracting polio at three, she had to grapple with other health conditions along the way, like chronic asthma, pneumonia and lung problems.

"Breathing is difficult for me every day," said Ms Goh, who has been wheelchair-bound since she was three.

In 2010, when her lungs collapsed, Ms Goh's doctors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) believed she would not be able to pull through.

Four years on, Ms Goh is not only recovering, she is taking charge of her life.

"My greatest wish is to be able to be who I am. Independent - that's who I want to be," she said.

Instead of being put on life-support, Ms Goh asked to be put on a portable oxygen tank, which allows greater mobility.

Said Ms Goh, who loves shopping: "I didn't want to be bedridden for the rest of my life and dependent on life-support."

Now, she works three days a week doing clerical duties at Bizlink Centre, which is about 7km from her home.

She even arranges her own transport with the Handicaps Welfare Association wherever she goes.

"Work also keeps my mind off my condition. I want to show people that the disabled are not useless," she said.

Ms Goh, who has three brothers and two sisters, said her family rarely visits.

"The last time I saw my father was during Chinese New Year," she said.

Ms Goh's medical bills are paid through her Medisave and MediShield funds. But her MediShield funds are almost used up.

When her lungs collapsed, the nursing home where she had lived for 30 years could not allow her to continue staying there.


"It was devastating. I loved the home so much," said Ms Goh.

But Ms Goh did not let this get her down and moved on to another nursing home, in Ang Mo Kio.

"I wanted to prove that I could overcome these obstacles. More than being pitied, I wish to be understood," she said.

A member of the multidisciplinary team supporting Ms Goh is impressed by her fighting spirit.

"She was crying every day for her independence," Ms June Chee, 50, an advanced practitioner nurse at TTSH, told The New Paper.

Ms Goh's doctor for the past 13 years, clinical associate professor John Arputhan Abisheganaden, also commended her spirit.

"It is heartening to see her recovering. She is one of the most fiercely independent patients I've seen," he said.

"I have seen cases that are as severe, but patients as strong as her are rare."

Inspiring patients to not give up hope

The book "Our Shared Stories. Same Same Yet Different. Our Shared Future" features inspiring and heartwarming stories contributed by patients and doctors of the National Healthcare Group.

This book seeks to encourage patients not to give up hope.

At the book launch in February, 15,000 copies were given to every staff member of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). Copies are also made available to patients and the public.

Here are extracts from two other stories:

A Humble Calling

"It was your voice. I remember your voice when you were with me throughout my first night in the hospital," a patient told his nurse, Mr Tan Tit Chai, when he thanked him.

The patient had not seen nurse Tan because he had a badly bruised and swollen face, but the care given to him by Mr Tan had moved him.

A Mother's Dying Wish

Blind, mute and bedridden as she was lying on her death bed, Madam Yuen, 91, wished for nothing else but to see her only son, whom she had lost contact with. Her son, Mr Heng Choon, suffers from schizophrenia.

TTSH and the Institute of Mental Health managed to find Heng Choon and brought him to see her. Before Madam Yuen died, she saw him waving to her and saying: "Bye, bye."

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