SINGAPORE – Almost daily, for the 27 days Mr Chung Ah Lay was battling for his life, his daughter Ashley got a call from the doctor caring for him, to update her on her father’s condition.
“Because we couldn’t see our Dad, this doctor would call us personally to update us,” said Ms Chung, 43.
“We were really appreciative and touched by that. She’s a real hero,” added the corporate trainer.
Her father died from complications owing to Covid-19 on Sunday (March 29) afternoon. He is the third person to succumb to the virus in Singapore.
Mr Chung, 70, had a history of hypertension and high cholesterol. He had not travelled recently to affected countries or regions.
He was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital on Feb 29, and was confirmed to have Covid-19 on March 2.
Since then, he had been in the intensive care unit (ICU), but developed serious complications and died after 27 days.
In that time, Mr Chung was cared for by a team of doctors and nurses from various departments. Among them was Dr Yvonne Chia May Fen, a medical officer at the department of respiratory and critical care medicine.
“She was by my father’s side all the time during that one month. After he died, she told us that even in his last moments, my father didn’t give up,” said Ms Chung.
When contacted, Dr Chia told The Straits Times she empathised with the family’s feelings of loss and uncertainty as they were unable to visit their father in the ICU.
“To help them understand Mr Chung’s situation, I tried my best to update the family each time there was a change in his progress, explaining to them in great detail about his condition and the rationale for our proposed management plans,” she said.
“In the midst of caring for the patient in front of us, we sometimes forget the family behind the patient and I hoped that through my attempt at narrating Mr Chung’s condition, it could allay any anxiety they may have had, and help his family journey through this difficult period together.”
After Mr Chung died, Dr Chia sent the family a personal e-mail expressing her condolences and said he had fought a good fight.
Mr Chung is survived by his wife, three children aged between 33 and 43, and five grandchildren aged between one year and 11 years old.
The family told The Straits Times after his funeral on Tuesday morning that he was a kind, introverted and happy-go-lucky man.
The former owner of OK Yong Tau Foo in Mosque Street “did a lot for the family”, said one of his nieces.
“He was my most beloved uncle. I will never forget him,” added the 41-year-old who declined to be named.
OK Yong Tau Foo closed down in 2009.
Just before he was hospitalised, Mr Chung worked at Japanese restaurant Fish Mart Sakuraya.
Ms Chung, the eldest of three children, recalled that on March 12, the Ministry of Health allowed her to visit her father on compassionate grounds even though she was under a quarantine order.
“They went the extra mile to organise an escort for me to visit my dad,” she said, as his condition had deteriorated.
Soon after, Mr Chung underwent a trial of vitamin C intravenous infusion, and his condition improved slightly.
But it worsened again on March 24, and Mr Chung took his last breath on Sunday -only hours after a cross match for his O+ blood type was found for him to undergo plasma therapy that might improve his chances of survival.
The treatment makes use of the antibodies to the coronavirus that recovered patients may have developed. It was introduced in China with some success in treating critically ill Covid-19 patients.
Earlier in March, Ms Chung made a public appeal for recovered Covid-19 patients to donate their blood for the plasma therapy treatment. She also asked the authorities to let her father receive the treatment.
“Efforts were made to expedite the plasma therapy for my father. We still had hope that he would survive this ordeal,” said Ms Chung.
Despite their sorrow, she and her family are grateful to all the healthcare workers who had helped to look after her father.
“We are really thankful that we had them on the journey with us, and we know they did their best for him,” she said.
She also thanked Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah, who helped the family obtain the first cremation session on Tuesday. Ms Rajah is also Ms Chung’s MP .
Ms Chung also said she and her family were surprised by the response from the public.
“People have been so overwhelmingly compassionate towards us.
“This crisis has really been a test of human compassion.”