Your Letters

Grateful to a very humane, humble and 'heng' doctor

Professor Phua Kong Boo, a senior consultant at KKH.
Professor Phua Kong Boo, a senior consultant at KKH. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

I was delighted to read about KK Women's and Children's Hospital's Professor Phua Kong Boo last Sunday ("74-year-old doctor who can't stop working").

I am indignant that one parent had regarded Prof Phua as a "suay" ("unlucky" in Hokkien) doctor.

To my family, he is our "heng" ("lucky" in Hokkien) doctor.

He exemplifies the best of all who swore by the Hippocratic Oath.

In 1990, I gave birth to my eldest son, who was diagnosed with cretinism, on the basis of his very low T4 (thyroxine) count.

For a year and a half, my husband had to take him for regular visits to a very reputable paediatrician and geneticist in private practice.

We were told to prepare for mental retardation, marbled veins, a huge head (the classic symptoms), and a short lifespan.

After we had used up practically all our savings and all our emotional reserves, a relative told us to "talk to" Prof Phua.

Cretinism was not his speciality, but he kindly agreed to meet two nervous wrecks and their toddler.

It was a Saturday, and not a working day for him. He spent a lot of time talking to us, with empathy, and examining our son, and for not a cent.

Then he told us that though the blood tests had been showing abnormal T4 counts, our son did not exhibit the physical symptoms of a cretin - and he had seen cretins, he assured us.

He told us to stop worrying. "Science will always present some cases of anomaly," he explained.

Thanks to Prof Phua, my husband and I became less paranoid and, gradually, we did stop worrying.

My potentially cretinous son is now a 25-year-old lawyer - and most healthy indeed.

We will always be grateful to Prof Phua - a very humane, humble and "heng" doctor, and I wish him many more years of good health.

Wong Nyuk Khim (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 29, 2015, with the headline 'Grateful to a very humane, humble and 'heng' doctor YourLetters'. Print Edition | Subscribe