“It was June 2014, and I was going about my usual routine when I suddenly lost balance on one side of the body while walking. I was admitted to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where doctors subsequently informed me that I had suffered a cerebellar stroke — a rare type of stroke that affects the back of my brain. For the next five weeks, I stayed in the hospital to recover and rehabilitate. There were many simple tasks that I had to relearn, such as walking and hanging my clothes. The wonderful occupational therapist even conducted a baking class for a group of us and it was great fun relearning the simple motions of handling the cake mixture and spatula. Being a task-driven person, I found these changes in my life quite fascinating and followed the tasks given each day by the doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Diet was, of course, a main consideration of the healing process and at one point, due to swallowing difficulties, I could only eat pureed food. People asked me how I could get used to eating bland food when I was a chef, a food critic and a taster of the finest foods in the world. But what I often tell others is that our palates can adapt to any new kinds of food.
Last year, during the “circuit breaker” period, the Singapore National Stroke Association asked if I could develop and film a series of four programmes featuring four Singapore and Asian inspired recipes crafted for stroke survivors and for those who want to eat healthy. Healthy eating is very important in reducing the risk of stroke, and I wanted to show stroke patients and their families that they can create delicious and aesthetically pleasing food which also meets their dietary and medical needs.
I have mostly recovered from my stroke and I understand better now what it means to have a health condition that challenges the norms of everyday living. To me, what matters most is celebrating the baby steps that patients take towards recovery. When I am out, I am not averse to asking strangers for help if necessary. I do not mind letting people know that I had a stroke, and that I sometimes struggle to get around or do things that others may find easy. In doing so, it also signals to people with challenges that it is okay to ask for help. There is no need to hide one’s challenges and issues.”
Excerpt from 2021 Singapore Health Inspirational Patient & Caregiver Award Booklet. Read the full story here.
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