From test-tube baby to entrepreneur

From test-tube baby to entrepreneur

For entrepreneur Samuel Lee, 32, life literally started in a petri dish.

Though his parents married young - his father was 21 and his mother 19 when they tied the knot - they could not have a baby.

After six years of trying for a baby with no luck, they took part in a clinical trial in 1982 under Professor S.S. Ratnam and Professor Ng Soon Chye.

The doctors implanted embryos in eight women, one of whom was Mr Lee's mother, Madam Tan Siew Ee.

"And as it turned out, she was successful in getting pregnant on the second attempt. I was the only success," Mr Lee said.

But being born to media attention made his parents uncomfortable.

"They were, after all, ordinary folks living in a three-room HDB flat," he said.

His father was a security supervisor and his mother a secretary.

"In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) was very expensive then. Thankfully, it was subsidised, making it affordable for them," he said.


Despite having an extraordinary conception, Mr Lee was raised an ordinary boy.

"I was not treated as if I was special. I played with my cousins, who were around my age, and was punished when I misbehaved," he said, adding that he is glad his parents did not spoil him.

Mr Lee said he was first told he was Asia's first test-tube baby at the age of three.

"At that age, I didn't even know what it meant. Only that I enjoyed seeing my photos in the newspapers and on TV.

"It was only when I started school that the teachers and classmates recognised me. I was teased and called 'man-made'," he said.

He only really understood what it meant to be a test-tube baby when he was 13.

"And even if I was conceived differently, I still lived in my mother's womb for nine months, like any other baby," he said.

Mr Lee only found out years later that there were "others just like me", when they had a gathering.

Proud to be part of Singapore's medical history, Mr Lee, who is single, said he hopes to settle down and have children.

"Whether my own children come out of a test-tube or not, I think all babies are miracles," he said.

This article was first published on Oct 9, 2015.
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