Survivor Stories

Spending My 30th Birthday in Hospital

Post on 21/10/16

Although Mok Kwok Fai is a younger survivor, what made the biggest difference to his recovery is something crucial to every survivor, regardless of age.

My Photo with StandeeMost stroke survivors are above the age of 50. I got a stroke when I was 29. I am therefore considered an outlier within the stroke survivor community, and my sharing may be different from the majority of the stroke survivors. Nonetheless, I hope it will be valuable for other survivors and caregivers to read about the experience of a younger survivor.

Mine was a haemorrhagic stroke. According to a doctor, this was because I was born with thinner blood vessels in my brain, which made rupturing easier.

One afternoon, in the office of the insurance company I worked for, a severe pain shot through my head and I felt dizzy. My colleagues called an ambulance and sent me to hospital immediately. After I regained consciousness, I realized I suffered a stroke and had already undergone brain surgery. My first thought was “Why Me, how can it happen when I was so young?”

What Made the Biggest Difference to My Recovery

A T-shirt given to me by my colleague when I was hospitalised. It has a drawing of myself, and words of encouragement.

A T-shirt given to me by my colleague when I was hospitalised. It has a drawing of myself, and words of encouragement.

Patricia Neal, who is another stroke survivor, once wrote:

Stroke does not respect age, sex, or race. It usually strikes when most unexpected. Those who survive are fortunate, those who are left unimpaired, more so; but for many who are left with varying degrees of disability, there is a long and hazardous road to travel.

However, I do feel that there is one common remedy that is able to help all the stroke survivors, regardless of age, sex or race, and that is — LOVE. When I was sent to the hospital, my colleagues informed my family, and my family told my friends about my incident.

My family and friends would visit me daily in the hospital, while my colleagues saw me there regularly too. During my hospitalisation, I received lots of gifts such as cards, flowers, gifts, ginseng, and traditional birds’ nest tonic. My uncle and aunt even flew in from Hong Kong to visit me.

Kwok Fai birthdayI spent my 30th birthday at the Singapore General Hospital. My friends and colleagues surprised me on my birthday, bringing me a cake. The doctors even gave me a birthday card, while the nurses  sang a song together with me. This was the most memorable birthday I have ever spent.

Medically, they were not able to help; but their visits were a powerful encouragement to me and did a lot for my recovery.

I was hospitalised for a total of three months. After I was discharged and went home, I initially moved into my Mom’s room so that it was easier for her to take care of me. I was — and am grateful for this. I was still wheelchair-bound at the time, and was unable to speak nor write. I underwent physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to improve my physical motion and speech, which were affected by the stroke.

The experience was frustrating. Sometimes, I would throw a tantrum, and refuse to go for therapy or do any exercises on my own. But then my mother would cry, and I would relent, realising that I owed it to her to recover. She would said, “People go through ups and downs, and that to reach up is to move forward.”

She cared for me the entire day at first, and I am deeply grateful for her love and sacrifices through this difficult time.

So many others remembered me too. Friends would visit me during the weekends at home. Colleagues would meet up with me once a while. My friend from Hong Kong even made the trip to Singapore to visit me.

After I recovered sufficiently, I wrote a book: “My Stroke Experience at 29”. The message I wanted to spread is that stroke does not happen only to the elderly; in fact, younger patients, who assume it cannot happen to them, may be caught unawares.

Many survivors became depressed because they are fixated on trying to figure out the cause of their stroke, which is not always clear. We cannot choose not to have a stroke, but whatever happens, we must seize the moment to learn as much as we can, and grow from it.

Every fall, every step, and every experience after my stroke has been a learning process for myself and my family members. With the help of everyone who loved and cared for me, I grew to become more independent. They believed in me. And their loving care was the best and truest gift I have ever received in my life.

By Mok Kwok Fai, Survivor.

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