Nursing Heroes Part 1 - From patient to nurse

HERE’S a challenge for you: Take a look at the photograph above and guess how old Madam Yuen Mei Choy is. Once you’ve decided on a figure, read on...

She’s 63! Yes, she does look at least 10 years younger, and is the picture of glowing health. However, it wasn’t always such a rosy story for Madam Yuen, an Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) nurse with the National University Hospital (NUH). As a child, she was constantly sick and needed frequent trips to the hospital.

“When I was young, my mum used to take me to the Institute of Health at Outram Road as I had a bad chest and coughed a lot. I was also hospitalised a few times. My mum said I was the sickliest of my siblings!” shared Madam Yuen, who has been with NUH for 31 years.

However, it was those visits to the hospital that eventually ignited her interest in nursing. Touched by how the nurses tended to her in her moment of need, she took up student nursing at the School of Nursing in Singapore General Hospital when she was 16. Later, she went for a midwifery course in 1977 and discovered her love for caring for newborns. 

Madam Yuen is one of the pioneer employees at NUH. She remembers joining the hospital on 10 June 1985, before it took in its first patient!

When asked what drives her passion, she said: “I get a great sense of satisfaction when patients remember me and call out to me in public. I even have foreign patients who still call me when they are in town. We meet up when they come back to Singapore for a visit!”

One of her former patients-turned-friends is from Finland. “She was a patient who was initially not very happy with the service, but we managed to turn things around and she grew to appreciate me and the care we provided. Every year, she will update me about how her son is doing. It’s been 81/2 years since she delivered him! When she came to visit me in early July, we went out a few times,” said Madam Yuen.

While nursing brings joy to Madam Yuen - she feels happy when she gains her patients’ trust and confidence, and when they recuperate - she admitted that it does come with its fair share of challenges: “In my 30 years at NUH, I have encountered five instances where terminally-ill patients have passed on. It affects me, and I am very sad each time it happens.”

When deaths occur, she will say a prayer for the deceased.

When she isn’t working, you can find Madam Yuen at a Zumba class once a week at Buona Vista Community Centre, or volunteering at the Ju Eng Home for Senior Citizens in Yio Chu Kang where she interacts with the elderly and helps to feed them.

Her advice to seniors? “Keep fit, look after your health – if you have good health, you will be able to offer your service, and contribute to society.”

“There are so many things I want to do. When I retire, I want to do charity work, such as volunteer at the Agape Village, and other old folks’ homes. As I’m still fit, I want to contribute more,” she added.

Thank you, Madam Yuen, for caring to go beyond and for being an everyday hero!

Article published on: 5/8/2016