SINGAPORE - She sat for her O-level Principles of Accounts (POA) paper with a chest tube inserted in her torso.
With one hand scribbling furiously and another hand supporting the tube, Hoon En Qi, from Pasir Ris Secondary School, had to deal with the effects of a lung puncture that happened four days before the paper.
Even with that distraction, she scored a distinction for the paper.
En Qi, 17, had been revising for her accounts paper, which was her last exam, at her Pasir Ris home in November last year when she suddenly felt breathless.
"My chest hurt; I couldn't sit down or lie down. I didn't know what was happening," she said.
She called her dad, who took her to a clinic near their HDB block that evening.
The doctor there said that En Qi's condition could be serious, and directed them to Changi General Hospital for a check-up immediately.
It turned out to be pneumothorax - in which air leaks from inside the lung into the chest, causing the lung to collapse.
The doctor told her that the lung puncture was spontaneous, meaning it could happen to anyone, but usually affected tall and thin people.
She was put under anaesthesia and doctors made a small cut on her ribcage to insert a chest tube.
En Qi then spent the night in hospital and was discharged at about 5am.
"I remember crying a lot in the hospital. I just broke down," she said. "I had just finished my History paper (the day I had chest pains). It was a good day as I felt that I did well for that paper," she said.
Taking the exam
Taking the exam
Back in her four-room flat after the tube insertion, En Qi found it difficult to focus on her POA revision.
"I didn't sleep well in the hospital with the chest tube stuck inside me. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Everything hurt a lot," she said.
En Qi's father, 52, a customer operations manager, was her pillar of support.
"My dad took two or three days off work for me. He told me not to give up. He said that whatever the outcome of the exam, he'd be proud of me," she said.
Motivated by her dad, she forced herself to concentrate on her revision for her paper two days later.
En Qi had to endure some physical discomfort throughout the three-hour long accounts paper, but said she was not in pain.
She said: "I was a bit breathless during the exam. I was really exhausted because I didn't get enough sleep the night before. The teachers who saw me said I looked pale."
When she had to use both hands to draw lines on the test paper, she supported the tube on her lap and between her thighs.
On Nov 7, she went for another operation at Singapore General Hospital, where the hole was sealed and the tube removed.
En Qi's right lung is fine now, but the doctor said she has to use her lung more frequently.
She does blowing exercises and takes walks to help her lung expand.
All her efforts paid off and she scored an A2 for POA.
"POA was my strongest subject. I always did well for it. I could have got an A1. But after going through (the lung collapse), I expected to do a lot worse," she said.
Efforts pay off
Efforts pay off
With an L1R5 aggregate of 11 points, En Qi hopes to pursue a psychology course in Temasek Polytechnic.
Her Secondary Five Normal (Academic) class teacher, Mr Cheng Song Fong, 32, said that she had "a lot of perseverance and mental strength."
En Qi, who is Singaporean, completed her Primary and Secondary One education at an American international school in China.
She returned and enrolled in Secondary Two at Pasir Ris Secondary School.
"En Qi started off weaker than her peers. She struggled with Maths, Science and Chinese," said Mr Cheng, who was her class teacher for three years.
"But she put in her best for every test and exam. She managed to catch up and did very well for her O levels," he said.
Mr Cheng added that En Qi was among the top five students in her Normal (Academic) cohort.
Her mother, Madam Fong Chuen Tuoh, 48, was especially proud of her.
The housewife said: "I was very worried about her. She was crying in the hospital as she was scared she couldn't finish her revision,"
"I am touched by her determination. She was not feeling well but she still studied till late at night."
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