Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at Stroke Support Station's World Stroke Day Celebrations 2022 on 29 October 2022.
Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean
Ms Chang Hwee Nee, Chairperson of S3
Board members and staff of S3
Caregivers, volunteers & partners
Guests and Friends
A very good morning to everyone.
I am glad to be here with all of you today to mark the World Stroke Day, and also to take the opportunity to pay our tribute to Mrs Teo Poh Yim.
As we heard from SM earlier, Poh Yim was very passionate about supporting stroke patients.
She founded S3 in 2015, based on her strong conviction that more can be done to support stroke survivors and their caregivers.
I think I speak for everyone here, when I say that we are deeply appreciative to Poh Yim for founding S3, and for her dedication in building up the resources, capabilities, and outreach of S3.
As we saw in the two tribute videos, there were many lives that she had touched. She made a real difference to the patients and their families.
As SM said, Poh Yim will be very happy to see the outcome of her work this morning. We felt your energy and hope, as many of you joined us on the scenic walk through the Jurong Lake Gardens. And we also saw several of our stroke patients doing aquatic exercises in the swimming pool!
Stroke touches all of us
Stroke can strike anyone.
There are almost 9,000 stroke patients each year in Singapore, with 1 in 4 under 60 years old. I was one of those under 60 when I had my stroke.
I collapsed in a Cabinet meeting slightly over six years ago. My colleagues thought that I had bent down to pick up something, which I had dropped from my table. But I did not get up after that.
I am very grateful for the immediate help from my Cabinet colleagues who are doctors. One of them, Dr Janil, is a pediatrician, and provided first-aid for me. I am also grateful to the ambulance crew who rushed me to the hospital immediately, and for the care that I received from the staff, doctors, nurses and therapists at the National Neuroscience Institute and the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
When I was lying unconscious in the ICU, Hwee Nee and my children were wondering if I would survive and the doctors could not give an answer. My family was also very worried if I could recover fully, and the doctors said that there was a whole range of outcomes. So those were moments of great anxiety for my family.
Thankfully, my medical team gave them confidence, and helped them to make the right decisions. Because there were many decisions that had to be made along the way, and I was not in a position to make any decisions.
I am very blessed to have made a full recovery. But the journey was by no means easy. And I understand the challenges that many stroke victims and their loved ones have to go through.
Hwee Nee told me that when I first became conscious, I could not speak properly because of my medical procedure. But I scribbled on a piece of paper and insisted on having coffee. I was quite a nuisance. Hwee Nee keeps proof of my scribble to remind me.
More seriously, I had to relearn day-to-day activities – not just how to speak, but also how to walk, how to stand, how to eat, and how to write. My therapists were most patient and professional. We just saw a video of the therapists’ work, and it brought back memories for me.
The one thing which I remember very well was throwing bean bags. My therapist would be standing opposite me with a little plastic basket, and it was quite discouraging for me initially that I sometimes missed it. But my therapists were so kind, and moved their basket to catch it for me.
I had also received many get-well cards. To encourage me to stand up, my therapists put the cards in front of my bed so I had to stand to look at them.
It was such an encouragement and gradually I was more motivated. I am also grateful that Hwee Nee and my children were by my side throughout, to give me support and encouragement. I was also greatly encouraged by the support and well-wishes I received from colleagues, friends, constituents, and many schools and students.
In fact, I have many drawings from students from kindergartens to primary and secondary schools and so on, and I still keep them.
Let me take this opportunity to also thank SM Teo.
SM shared with me that from his MHA office, he could see Tan Tock Seng hospital where I was warded, and on many occasions thought he should drop by.
But he refrained from doing so. He had been advising Cabinet colleagues not to visit me, so as to allow me the time and space to recover. So even though he was a stone’s throw away, he refrained from visiting me.
Thank you, SM, for being so thoughtful as always.
Support of Family and Community
My own experience has shown me that for a stroke patient to recover, the support and encouragement of our family, friends and community make a big difference.
In particular, it is not just the therapy that we go through, but the emotional support, the belief that you can recover. So, let me take this opportunity to make a special mention of caregivers.
While we attend to the stroke patient, we must not forget the fear and anxiety of close family members and caregivers. They are under tremendous stress. In fact, many are burning at both ends of the candle, as they still have to work.
Over the years, I have met recovering stroke patients, including many this morning, who continue to need a range of rehabilitation and support.
It is very demanding on the patients, and perhaps even more on their caregivers.
So while we support stroke victims, let us also give all our support to our caregivers, and show our appreciation. In turn, when caregivers are well taken care of, they can take better care of the stroke patients.
Thank you very much to all our caregivers here!
Stroke Support Station is a community-led effort that has provided strong support for both stroke patients and their caregivers.
All the partners, volunteers and donors – your contributions have made a ground-up initiative like S3, which Poh Yim started, possible.
Many of you have a conviction to make a difference in the lives of others.
You are an excellent example of how each of us, doing our part, can make Singapore a more caring and inclusive society.
I hope you continue to support S3, as it seeks to do better.
Finally, to all our stroke patients undergoing rehabilitation, my very best wishes to you for a full recovery.
And to our caregivers and family members, stay strong. Your support to the patients is very important.
To the Board, staff, and supporters of S3 – you are making a difference to the lives of many – please keep up the good work.
Finally, I should also thank my caregiver Hwee Nee for caring for me when I was recovering. Thank you very much!
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