I was determined to fight

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". (See report right.)

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."


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