Coping with daughter's diabetes diagnosis inspires couple to help other parents

(From right) Mr Tee Meng Kem, Ms Irene Goh Bee Yok and their daughter Tee Yu Tong, who has Type 1 diabetes.
(From right) Mr Tee Meng Kem, Ms Irene Goh Bee Yok and their daughter Tee Yu Tong, who has Type 1 diabetes.PHOTO: SINGHEALTH

SINGAPORE - When Mr Tee Meng Kem, 50, and his wife Irene Goh Bee Yok, 51, found out in 2006 that their daughter Yu Tong has Type 1 diabetes, they were plunged into despair.

Yu Tong was only 2½ years old at the time, and Ms Goh took the diagnosis very hard.

"I blamed myself. I felt I must have not done enough during pregnancy and so she has this sickness," she said.

"In the initial six to nine months, I refused to talk to the medical social workers. I felt they did not understand what I was going through, and I just wanted to be by myself."

It was only after she met parents of other children with diabetes at a camp at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) that she finally worked out her emotions and came to terms with the diagnosis.

"We really benefited from other parents who shared their experience with us. We saw that we were not alone and learnt how to help our daughter manage her sickness," said Mr Tee, a supplier quality manager in the automotive industry.

Since then, the couple have gone back to the camp year after year to volunteer in the hope of helping other parents like themselves.

Last year, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they also helped organise a virtual camp.

For their efforts as patient advocates of the SingHealth Patient Advocacy network and their work as parent volunteers with the KKH Diabetes Team, the Tees were given the Star Partner Award at the Public Sector Transformation Awards ceremony last Friday (July 30).

Besides the diabetes camp, they have set up a WhatsApp chat group to provide support for parents, as well as produced an information packet that parents can use to inform schools of their children's condition. They have also given talks in schools.

The WhatsApp support group has more than 100 people.

Ms Goh, who works in human resource, often takes it upon herself to text the new mothers so they will not be stressed comparing themselves with the more experienced parents in the group.

The couple said their daughter's courage motivates them to keep volunteering even if they have to juggle that with a busy work schedule.

Yu Tong, who is now 18 and mostly manages her condition herself, has never cried when taking her insulin injections.

"The mommy was the one who kept crying," said Ms Goh. "Her bravery helps me stay strong."