Nurses' Day: Nursing couple find love in sickness and in health

Ms Lim Mei Ling, 37, and Mr Muhammad Shahabudin, 36, first met in class while pursuing nursing diplomas in the late 1990s at Nanyang Polytechnic.
Ms Lim Mei Ling, 37, and Mr Muhammad Shahabudin, 36, first met in class while pursuing nursing diplomas in the late 1990s at Nanyang Polytechnic.ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR
Mr Muhammad Shahabudin, a nurse manager at National University Hospital, preparing an intravenous drip for a patient at the hospital's emergency medicine department.
Mr Muhammad Shahabudin, a nurse manager at National University Hospital, preparing an intravenous drip for a patient at the hospital's emergency medicine department. PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
Ms Lim Mei Ling (far left, in foreground), a nurse manager at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, introducing Omnicell, an automated medication dispensing cabinet, to overseas visitors.
Ms Lim Mei Ling (far left, in foreground), a nurse manager at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, introducing Omnicell, an automated medication dispensing cabinet, to overseas visitors. PHOTO: TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL

SINGAPORE - Wednesday (Aug 1) was Nurses' Day, dedicated to the professionals who care so much about their patients.

And for one couple, the day is extra special because nursing is not only their career, it's also what brought the two of them together.

Mr Muhammad Shahabudin, 36, and Ms Lim Mei Ling, 37, first met in class while pursuing nursing diplomas in the late 1990s at Nanyang Polytechnic.

He had marked the attendance sheet and tried to pass it to her, calling her "aye" to get her attention.

He recalled: "She turned around and replied 'My name is not aye.' That got my attention."

He wanted to ask her out, but was too shy to do so. Instead, he spent a year accompanying her home on the MRT train after school, even though they lived in different parts of Singapore.

Ms Lim said: "Shaha is the sort who would never ask me anything directly. So I only got the sense he liked me when he kept accompanying me home to Woodlands, when he should have stopped at Toa Payoh."

Soon, they became a couple. And after five more years of dinner dates, movies and holidays, they married in 2005. They have two sons, Muhammad Rayyan, 12, and Muhammad Riyyan, two, and a daughter, Misha Nadyya, 10.

Home is now a five-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh.

The two are both nurse managers. Mr Shahabudin is at National University Hospital's emergency medicine department, while Ms Lim works at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

While nursing brought them together, work has also sometimes kept them apart.

Ms Lim says: "Sometimes, we swop shifts with our colleagues so we can spend time together.

With two nurses in the family, it is no surprise that a cough or vomiting episode at home will receive a lot of attention.

When Rayyan began vomiting frequently in 2013, they were quick to seek medical attention and trace the symptoms to a migraine.

A few family outings have also turned into impromptu rescues when they encounter people who suddenly collapsed.

Mr Shahabudin said: "We are not doctors, but we can still help in some way. Outside of work, I have performed CPR on a stranger more than once while waiting for an ambulance to arrive."

As a result of their actions, their children have called them "superheroes". But Mr Shahabudin said: "I don't think I am a hero. I just want to help."

As of last year, there are more than 35,000 nurses and midwives actively practising in Singapore, according to the Ministry of Health's website, and there are efforts to grow this figure.

For example, the total nursing intake across the polytechnics, universities and the Institute of Technical Education has increased by 30 per cent - from 1,500 students in 2012 to around 2,000 last year.

To attract more mid-career Singaporeans, a new two-year Bachelor of Science (Nursing) programme was introduced at the National University of Singapore's Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies earlier this year.

Mr Shahabudin said: "It is good that more is being done to encourage people to become nurses. Although the work can be stressful and you must think on your feet, it can also be very rewarding when you make a difference to someone's life and health.

"And if you are really lucky, you might even find love like me."