In its early stages, progressive supra-nuclear palsy is similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Symptoms include slow physical movements, impaired vision and balance, resulting in a tendency to fall.
Following this, there is a risk of choking, aspiration, pneumonia, and even death as a result of difficulty swallowing.
Having been born into a middle-class family, my parents were sensible enough not to want to raise their children as rich and privileged. As my father was Singapore’s Prime Minister, we could have stayed in a huge bungalow on the grounds of the Istana. However, he didn’t want us to grow up with the wrong idea of our importance and entitlement. He disliked the idea that a butler would run after a ball we threw. As a result, we lived in Oxley Road, our old pre-war home.
As equals, we played with the butler’s children and watched their little television set in their sitting room. Even now, if we happen to cross paths, we greet each other as childhood friends and on a first-name basis. Over the years, I’ve seen Flora and Stella when their children have been admitted to the hospital, usually because of asthma attacks. I haven’t seen John and Aloysius for a long time.
MRCP (Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians) was my first taste of failure. Almost all Singapore doctors knew I failed the test a day after the results were announced, and they cheered. I learned a valuable lesson about resilience from that experience. It was the second time I took the exam and this time I passed.
Veterinary medicine and paediatrics face similar challenges. Doctors deal with patients who cannot clearly communicate their problems, and patients may be uncooperative without being malicious.
Then I chose to sub-specialise in pediatric neurology and was awarded a Health Ministry scholarship to train at Massachusetts General Hospital, a famous Boston hospital.
Upon my return, I served my 13-year bond. I was transferred to the neurology department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital after being unwelcome at the paediatric department. Among a group of adult neurologists, I was the only paediatric neurologist.
Since epilepsy was the only neurological condition that could be treated at that time, I focused on paediatric epilepsy, which has a wider range of manifestations than adult epilepsy. Therefore, I became competent both as a paediatric and an adult epileptologist.
Following that, I was awarded another Health Ministry scholarship and spent a year at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. I also spent a few months at the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. My scholarship came with a bond, and I served between 15 and 17 years.
Overall, I enjoyed my years working as a neurologist and epileptologist.