Gift of life helps her pursue adventure

Ms Kymn Yee, who has thalassaemia major and needs regular blood transfusions, has not let this deter her adventurous spirit. Mountain peaks she has scaled include the Poon Hill in Nepal.
Ms Kymn Yee, who has thalassaemia major and needs regular blood transfusions, has not let this deter her adventurous spirit. Mountain peaks she has scaled include the Poon Hill in Nepal.PHOTO: KYMN YEE

When Ms Kymn Yee was six months old, doctors told her parents she would likely not live past 17.

She was diagnosed with an inherited blood disorder called thalassaemia major, meaning she has less haemoglobin and fewer red blood cells in her body than others.

Yet, it did not deter her adventurous spirit. The teacher, now 39, has plunged into the depths of the sea - clocking 300 dives - and scaled mountain peaks, including Poon Hill in Nepal.

This is despite needing a nine- hour blood transfusion procedure at the hospital every three weeks.

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So how does she do it? "I made sure I scheduled my blood transfusion session a few days before the diving or mountaineering trips so that I would have enough blood to sustain myself on those trips."

As vice-president of the Thalassaemia Society in Singapore, she knows of members who have lived until old age and others who died in their 30s. There are about 70 people with thalassaemia major here, she said, with hundreds of thousands of others with thalassaemia minor. Minors carry the affected gene but do not require blood transfusions.

One common misconception is that blood is needed only during emergencies, she said. "There are people like us who need blood donations regularly. Blood is literally life to us so we hope that others will continue to give us this gift of life."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Gift of life helps her pursue adventure'. Print Edition | Subscribe