A level results: JC sportsman who suffers from seizures and body tremors hopes to become a physiotherapist

In 2018, Lim Yong Jin was diagnosed with a rare disorder - autoimmune limbic encephalitis.
In 2018, Lim Yong Jin was diagnosed with a rare disorder - autoimmune limbic encephalitis.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - When Lim Yong Jin first enrolled in the former Jurong Junior College (JC) in 2016, he was like any other regular student, eager to make friends and participate in a co-curricular activity (CCA).

He was made captain of the JC's taekwondo team, a sport he loved and excelled in. He also represented the school regularly in competitions.

But his time in JC turned out to be one filled with setbacks, the first of which was not doing well enough in his A-level examinations in 2017 to get into a local university.

Yong Jin decided to repeat his second year in JC and retake the A levels.

But in 2018, during the preliminary examinations, he was diagnosed with a rare disorder - autoimmune limbic encephalitis.

The disorder is an inflammation of the brain that results in seizures and possible short-term memory loss.

"It started with a fever, and I was sent to the intensive care unit, and hospitalised for two months," said the 20-year-old, whose father is a private-hire car driver and mother, an administrative clerk. He has an older brother.

"My memory of that period is a blur, but I know I had seizures every day for a month," he said.

It was not easy for the Sportsman of the Year, an award his school gave him, to learn that he had to pick up motor skills like walking and writing all over again.

Yong Jin has been receiving physiotherapy and occupational therapy two to three times a week over the last year to reduce his body tremors.

He is also on daily medication to keep his seizures in check, and has hospital check-ups every three months.

 
 

"At the start it was really difficult. I couldn't stabilise myself while standing. In the second month in hospital, I could walk just a few metres," he said.

Writing was also a challenge because he could not control his hand movements.

He returned to school in February last year, and by then, Jurong JC had merged with Pioneer JC to become Jurong Pioneer JC.

It had also moved to the former Pioneer JC's site in Choa Chu Kang.

"I had to adjust to the new school campus. Most of my classmates had graduated, and I was in a new class and people didn't know what had happened to me," said Yong Jin.

To help him settle into school, his teacher assigned classmates to be his buddies.

They would stay near him as he navigated the stairways, and even buy food for him in the canteen when it was too crowded and when he had giddy spells.

"Anxiety hits me when I feel unstable and think I would fall," said Yong Jin, who was also afraid he would suffer seizures during the A-level examinations last year.

"Whenever I write, my muscles twitch, and that's the first indication that the seizures could start. Thankfully, it never happened," he said.

Yong Jin was given more time to complete his papers, and had an assistant to help during the practical examination for chemistry.

He scored Ds for chemistry, economics and mathematics, Cs for biology and general paper, and a B for project work.

 
 

He may not be able to take up taekwondo again because of his medical condition, but he hopes to become a physiotherapist in future, to help people like him regain the ability to move.

Never a quitter, Yong Jin has been back at school to help mentor his juniors in taekwondo.

"The doctors say some patients fully recover from this, but there's also a lot of uncertainty," he said. "

Over time, I've come to accept my condition and I've grown mentally stronger and more prepared for challenges."