She brings a smile to the dying

PHOTO: She brings a smile to the dying

SINGAPORE - His dying wish was for Ms Ng Tzer Wee to arrange for him to share his secret to a successful marriage with his children.

"He wanted his children to know how to make a marriage work, because he and his wife were happily married," said Ms Ng, 38, a principal medical social worker at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Department of Care and Counselling.

The man, who was in his 50s, was dying of cancer, and she facilitated a dialogue session involving his whole family by his bedside in hospital.

"We opened communication lines between the family members about saying goodbye, and he even managed to tell his family about what (outfit) he wanted to be buried in."

She added that that resulted in "good closure". The patient died soon after.

Ms Ng, who specialises in palliative care, called his wife to check on her but she was too distraught to speak. Instead, the man's wife told her that she would call when she was ready.

It would be a four-year wait.

"I was so touched when she called me finally," she said.

Other instances of her dedication over the past decade include an overnight search in Geylang for a homeless patient and cleaning out a patient's house.

Ms Ng's actions have impacted her colleagues as much they have her patients.

Mr Bryan Lim, 34, joined her team as a principal medical social worker in 2002. She became his pillar of strength when he was emotionally affected by a young patient who died from the Sars virus the following year.

Said Mr Lim: "She told me that nothing is absolute, and that really helped me to move on."

Ms Ng's academic achievements include co-authoring a chapter on palliative work in Singapore in the Oxford Textbook Of Palliative Medicine.

She is also the first medical social worker in Singapore to have gone for training in palliative care through a fellowship at the Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York.

For her unwavering commitment, Ms Ng received the top accolade for social workers - the Outstanding Social Worker Award - from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at a ceremony held at the Istana yesterday.

Mr Mohamed Fareez Mohamed Fahmy, 30, who works as the centre manager for the Nexus Family Resource Centre, received the Promising Social Worker Award for helping to integrate former inmates back into society.

The annual event, now in its 12th year, was organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers, with support from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, National Council of Social Service and ExxonMobil Asia Pacific.

The awards given out aim to recognise the professional contributions of social workers to the social-service, health-care and community sectors here.

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