Veteran newsman Seah Chiang Nee, one of world's longest-surviving heart transplant patients, dies at age 76

Veteran journalist Seah Chiang Nee in his study at his Serangoon Gardens bungalow, in a file photo from 2006.
Veteran journalist Seah Chiang Nee in his study at his Serangoon Gardens bungalow, in a file photo from 2006.ST PHOTO: DOMINIC YING

SINGAPORE - Veteran journalist Seah Chiang Nee, who was one of the world's longest-surviving heart transplant patients, has died.

Mr Seah, who was the first Singaporean to get a heart transplant 32 years ago, died at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on Sunday (Jan 15) morning with family members by his side.

He would have turned 77 next month.

His 68-year-old wife Patricia Wong told The Straits Times that Mr Seah had been in and out of the hospital since July.

"He had shingles and we took him to the hospital. He recovered, but then he had diarrhoea for about a month," she said.

 

"He could still talk to us at first...but he became a lot weaker in the last two months and he was asleep most of the time."

She added: "He couldn't even wait till his birthday. But I guess the Lord has kept him for that long."

Mr Seah received a heart transplant in 1985, after a rare viral infection damaged his heart. He had his operation in Sydney, and his donor was a 17-year-old Australian teenager who had just died in an accident.

He is Singapore's longest-surviving heart transplant patient, and in about a year, he would have equalled the record set by the world's longest-surviving heart transplant patient, a Briton who died last year 33 years after his operation.

It is rare for people who have gone through such operations to survive more than 30 years.

The drugs Mr Seah had to take to prevent his body from rejecting his new heart had damaged his kidneys over the years, and he suffered from renal failure about five years ago.

His health had deteriorated since then.

But it did not stop him from contributing socio-political columns about Singapore to The Star newspaper in Malaysia until 2014. He also maintained a current affairs news website, www.littlespeck.com, which he started in 2000.

The veteran newsman had worked at The Straits Times in the 1970s as a foreign editor.

He began his journalism career in 1960, as a Singapore-based Reuters correspondent. He stayed in the job for 10 years, and spent a portion of it in Vietnam covering the war.

He subsequently became the chief editor of now-defunct afternoon tabloid Singapore Monitor from 1982 to 1985.

In 1986, he started writing for Malaysian publication The Star, and his column ran till 2014.

A former colleague of Mr Seah at The Straits Times, Mr Ismail Kassim, wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday: "For over 40 years I have known him, and have always found him trustworthy, and a great friend and colleague."

Earlier in October, Mr Ismail had written on Facebook about visiting Mr Seah in the Singapore General Hospital where he was warded.

In the note, Mr Ismail, who was a correspondent with the newspaper, said Mr Seah was "chirpy and hopeful, despite knowing he is in his last leg".

"He was always cool, fighting back quietly and against all odds, survived one crisis after another until he became the longest," he had said.

Mr Seah leaves behind his wife, as well as their only son Seah Pei Kwang, 37.

His wake will be held at the Singapore Casket on Tuesday (Jan 17) and Wednesday. The funeral is on Thursday.