“The first day when I joined the team in the Isolation Ward, I wasn’t very sure, whether or not I would be safe,” confessed Medical Officer Tan Sye Nee. She was doing her Haematology posting when she volunteered at the Isolation Ward in the first days of Covid-19 in Singapore.
“But I have to say that the Infectious Diseases department and our seniors really took great care of us. The Senior Consultants would check in with us every single day, to ask how we were doing. When we had to use the full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), they took great care to ensure that we were donning and using it properly and all our steps were correct to protect ourselves.
“After managing the first few imported cases, we thought the worst was over. Then we were shocked to find out that one of our Covid-19 patients was a local transmission case, without travel or known contact history.
“But our seniors had been very protective and they had made us wear the full set of PPE throughout. Honestly, we had thought they were over-reacting, kiasu. But in the light of the confirmed Covid-19 patient whom we thought was low risk, we finally understood why they were so cautious. That gave me the reassurance that we were working in a safe and well-protected environment.”
Recalling the beginning of her Covid-19 journey, Medical Officer Tan Sye Nee said, “The moment I touched down at Changi Airport on Day 3 of Chinese New Year, I got the call from my senior asking for volunteers at the Isolation Ward. I had been home in Malaysia for the holidays. Before leaving home, I had reassured my mum, “Don’t worry, I’m in Haematology. So I’m very safe.”
“You know, in the movies, people would want to be the hero and would readily volunteer their service. But when I was asked whether I would risk my life to do this, in a situation where everyone knew that there is no cure if infected, I admit I hesitated. ‘Should I even do this?’ I asked myself.
“Then I thought… I am staying alone (in Singapore) and if I get infected, there’s less risk posed to others. Many of my MO friends are married or living with their parents.
“Initially I did not want to tell my mum because she had been really very worried, as my brother had just gone to China to be with his wife. I didn’t want to add to her worries. But if I didn’t tell her, I wouldn’t be able to make up my mind to step up. So I called her and she eventually understood and agreed with my decision.”
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