TL;DR – Health is wealth.
On May 12 this year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat suffered a stroke. He was lucky. He collapsed when he was in a Cabinet meeting. Also present at that Cabinet meeting were three doctors, including Dr Janil Puthucheary, who immediately began resuscitation efforts. This ensured that Minister Heng’s heart continued pumping and his brain continued to get oxygen. Such actions prevented Minister Heng from suffering permanent brain damage and enabled him to recover faster.
Here, let us relive the happy moment when Minister Heng was discharged from the hospital some six months ago back in June.
Receiving first aid fast helps
About 40% of patients who suffer from aneurysms die from it. Many suffer permanent brain damage. So Minister Heng knows how lucky he was. He said:
“I was very lucky, because there were a number of doctors (in Cabinet), who immediately administered first aid. Dr Janil played a pivotal role, ensuring that my body continued to function normally, making sure that my breathing and heartbeat were normal until the ambulance arrived… so I must admit, I am very very lucky.”
Support from friends and family is important
Even with the immediate first aid that Minister Heng received, it still wasn’t easy to recover completely. The encouragement from friends and family spurred him on. Minister Heng said:
“The support and encouragement I got, from my immediate family members to members of public whom I don’t know personally, were very touching. It helps. It made me feel ‘Oh, you’re a part of something bigger’, and that was quite meaningful. It was quite amazing.”
Stay focussed on the recovery
The support from his friends and family helped Minister Heng stay focussed on working hard to get back to his normal self. He said:
“At every stage, there was something to strive to do better, and that kept me going. I knew that if I did it properly, I’d be back to my normal self, so I was quite focussed on that.”
Be grateful and keep trying
That Minister Heng is now able to speak clearly without slurring and walk steadily is a result of much hard work. And that was made possible in a large part because of the encouragement and support from many different people. That’s why one recurring theme that came out in the interview was how grateful Minister Heng was. In the hour-long interview, he used the word “grateful” no less than five times to express his gratitude:
“I am just very grateful that I can resume my functions and I can go back to work. I’ve learnt that it is important to stay motivated and to keep trying, even if it means taking it one small step at a time.”
Getting back to work… with minor adjustments
Now that he’s recovered, he’s back at work. When asked if the stroke has changed his priorities, he replied:
“In a way, I would say: ‘No’. I have always believed that in whatever we do, we should do our best. And so now that I am able, I will continue to do my best.”
Why is he so determined to do his best? He explained:
“I’m very grateful for what I have in Singapore, and I think it’s important that we do our part and continue to create a better future for our people.”
That said, Minister Heng conceded that the experience has made him pay more attention to his health. Now he tries to sleep earlier, at 10pm, instead of past midnight. Also, he takes a break every hour and just walks around, instead of working long hours non-stop. He said:
“I decided I needed to pace it, do it in a more gradual way.”
Health is most important
Given this experience, it’s no wonder that Minister Heng’s New Year’s wish is for everyone to be healthy. To him, that is now the most important. And now that he’s back, we are looking forward to him contributing to ensuring that our economy remains healthy too, even through the upcoming storms and headwinds.
So, happy new health to one and all!