SINGAPORE - Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat was discharged from Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Saturday (June 25) after suffering from a stroke more than six weeks ago.
The Prime Minister’s Office said on a statement that Mr Heng “has made an excellent recovery”, but is still on medical leave as the continues his rehabilitation.
"To minimise the risk of infection, his doctors have advised against receiving visitors for the time being," it added.
Mr Heng said in a Facebook post, his first since May 10, that the last few weeks were the "toughest of his life".
A short video was also posted, showing a slimmer but cheerful and mobile Mr Heng thanking his medical team.
In his first public statement since the stroke, he said: "If not for the critical help of many people, including my colleagues in Cabinet on the day of my stroke, I wouldn’t be here now."
Mr Heng's sudden stroke during a Cabinet meeting on May 12 was due to an aneurysm, which is a localised weakening of a blood vessel.
After he collapsed, his Cabinet colleagues who are trained doctors - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of State Janil Puthucheary - came to his aid immediately.
He underwent successful endovascular coil embolisation of the aneurysm on the same day. He was also treated with antibiotics for a lung infection.
In the statement, Mr Heng thanked the doctors, nurses, and staff of Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Neuroscience Institute for their care.
Of the medical staff who assisted him he said: "They showed the best of care, and a warm human touch. They are rays of light when patients and their families are at their lowest."
He also thanked his well-wishers, who had sent him messages of encouragement and good wishes.
“It was not just about medical care. One more thing made a difference... all your prayers and good wishes. I was very touched to hear about the prayers of different religious groups, and to receive all your wishes, cards and flowers. Your good wishes stayed by my side at the hospital, and I’m taking them home with me,” he said.
He added that he was also touched by how his colleagues and fellow MPs in Tampines GRC had come together to make sure residents in his ward were cared for.
“This is true team spirit, thank you,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will continue to cover Mr Heng's duties as he focuses on recovery.
"For now, doctors say no visitors, no work, focus on rehab so I can recover fully. I may not be able to reply to your messages. But be assured that I'm reading them all, and your good wishes give me strength," Mr Heng wrote.
“I look forward to when I can see everyone again. My deepest thanks to all of you for your wishes and prayers. Enjoy the rest of your June holidays, and blessed Ramadan to all our fasting friends. Let’s iftar together next year. Everyone, please take good care of yourselves too.”
President Tony Tan Keng Yam said in a Facebook post that Mr Heng wrote him a personal letter informing Dr Tan of his progress and improvement.
"Swee Keat's family has been most supportive during this period and the medical team at Tan Tock Seng Hospital has done a great job in tending to Swee Keat. Mary and I wish Swee Keat a full recovery as he continues to recuperate in the coming months," Dr Tan wrote.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked the staff at the hospital, and advised Mr Heng to take things easy.
"I know from personal experience that recovering from serious illnesses takes time. I have advised Swee Keat to take things step by step. No constant checking of his email or his phone!" he wrote on Facebook.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also sent his well wishes on Facebook.
"All the best Swee Keat. Our good wishes are with you and your family for a full and speedy recovery," he wrote.
In his social media post, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called Mr Heng's recovery "miraculous".
"I would not have dared to hope for such a miraculous quick recovery on that fateful evening as we discussed the emergency treatment options," he said.
Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan made another call to Mr Heng to "pace himself", using a Chinese proverb which he translated as "as long as the woods are preserved, there will be adequate firewood for the future".
He wrote on Facebook: "This is good news indeed! We wish him a speedy recovery, but he should pace himself. His residents in Tampines and his work in MOF (Ministry of Finance) are adequately covered by fellow colleagues and he should just focus 100 per cent of his health and recovery."
Fellow Tampines MP and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli celebrated Mr Heng's recovery and posted a Whatsapp message Mr Heng sent to a group chat comprising Tampines MPs.
He wrote on Facebook: "#masagos can't be happier today! Heng Swee Keat is discharged today and is recovering well. Thank you all for your prayers!"
In his Whatsapp message, Mr Heng said that he has "recovered most of his functions" but needs to be on medical leave for a while more.
Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC Desmond Choo welcomed the "excellent news" while promising that the team in Tampines will continue to take care of the constituency in Mr Heng's absence.
"Looking forward to him coming back soon!" he said.