Former infantry officer diagnosed with Covid-19 spent nearly 70 days in TTSH-NCID

Mr Wong Shin Liang, 71, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in early February, says he is glad to have a second stab at life.
Mr Wong Shin Liang, 71, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in early February, says he is glad to have a second stab at life. PHOTO: TTSH-NCID

Mr Wong Shin Liang, 71, used to be able to lustily belt out several numbers at one ago at home or in a karaoke club.

Not anymore, not since he spent nearly 70 days in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital-National Centre for Infectious Diseases (TTSH-NCID) after being diagnosed with Covid-19 in early February. "I'm only 60 per cent of my former self. I still get breathless sometimes," says the former infantry officer.

The coronavirus debilitated him severely; he had pneumonia and had to be hooked up to a ventilator. He also suffered acute intestinal bleeding on a couple of occasions, requiring blood transfusions.

His memory of his hospital stay is sometimes hazy, as he was drifting in and out of consciousness. But he recalls having bizarre dreams, one of which he still vividly remembers. "I was staying in a five-star hotel when a big wave came. I was immersed in water and there was fish around me. Suddenly, there was a thunderstorm and darkness. The next moment, I saw a rainbow and I was in a seaside scene."

Mr Wong, who has two daughters, does not know how he contracted the virus. He had a mild fever and was admitted to TTSH-NCID after a blood test and a swab test. The diabetic's condition deteriorated soon after and became so critical that he ended up in the Intensive Care Unit on three occasions for stays lasting between two and 20 days.

Unknown to him, his wife was also warded in the same hospital while he was fighting for his life although her symptoms were a lot more benign.

His daughters were sick with worry by the turn of events.

"The first three weeks were an emotional roller coaster ride. I was in a state of grieving because of the daily updates - they're increasing the antibiotics, he has secondary infections, he is not improving. I didn't sleep, I didn't eat," says elder daughter E.H. Wong, a church worker in her 40s.

Meanwhile, Mr Wong says he is glad to have been given a second stab at life and spends his time playing chess and tending to his fish. "When I eat now, I chew slowly before I swallow. If you rush, you may choke."

 
 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2020, with the headline 'Ex-officer spent nearly 70 days in TTSH-NCID'. Print Edition | Subscribe