A British tourist saw sights few get to see when she was hospitalised during a visit to Singapore to attend her son’s wedding – after returning to the UK, the patient used art to share her experience with NNI staff.

The day after landing in Singapore in January 2024, Alison and her husband were in Bras Basah, enjoying the sunshine and the build-up to their son’s wedding, which was to take place four days later. Suddenly, Alison felt faint and black patches started to appear in her vision. 

“My husband wanted to call an ambulance, but I said I was fine and just needed to rest, which is typical of me. But 20 minutes later, things hadn’t improved so he called 995 and the next thing I knew I was in the Emergency Department seeing faces and hearing snippets of questions,” recalls Alison.

The next two days were a blur for Alison as she dipped in and out of sleep and adjusted to life in the ward at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Meanwhile, the healthcare team worked to get her diagnosed, treated and discharged in time so she could attend her son’s wedding. 

The team suspected that Alison had suffered a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), which is also known as a mini stroke, but they wanted to rule out a seizure. So, she was referred to the National Neuroscience Institute’s Neurodiagnostic Laboratory (NDL) for electroencephalography (EEG).

"An EEG monitors brain waves and checks for abnormal bursts of activity that may cause seizures," explains Chang Chao-Li, Senior Neuro Electrophysiologist, NDL, NNI. "During the EEG we conduct an activation called intermittent photoic stimulation which uses flashing lights to elicit abnormal brain waves – if they occur they may assist in diagnosing and categorising the seizure."

This activation is done with the patient's eyes closed, then open and closed again. During it Alison shared images she had ‘seen’ with Chao-Li and her colleague Neuro Technologist Fatin Hanani Binte Raub.

“When my eyes were closed it was like looking through a children’s kaleidoscope and seeing lovely colours in pinks and greens, and when I opened my eyes, I could see black with silvery spots. It was hard to describe it, so promised them I would find a way to share with them what I had experienced,” says Alison.

The EEG showed no sign of a seizure and Alison was well enough to be discharged the day before her son’s wedding. Relieved to swap hospital pyjamas for her ‘mother-of-the-groom’ outfit, Alison made it to the ceremony, and one week later she was declared fit to take the 10,000km flight back to the UK.

From right: Alison with her son, daughter-in-law and husband]

In February, Chao-Li and Fatin were surprised to receive a package from England through the mail. It contained paintings done by Alison, showing the images she had tried to describe during and after her EEG.

“It was important to me to process my experience in Singapore and art is the best way for me to do this as it helps to clear my head. So, I drew highlights of my stay at TTSH on a concertina artbook to capture my memories and did paintings of the colours I had seen during the EEG to help Chao-Li and Fatin visualise what I had seen,” says Alison. 

“Fatin and I were both so touched that Alison spent her time to illustrate what she had experienced. A picture really is worth a thousand words!” says Chao-Li. 

Among the paintings was also a small gift from a city close to where Alison lives. 

“The room where the EEG was conducted has a wall of key chains and when I asked about it, Chao-Li shared that she collects them when travelling overseas and friends give them to her as gifts. But she didn’t have one from Cambridge, so I included one in the package to add to her collection!” explains Alison.

Spot the key chain bearing the Cambridge coat of arms and a tiny bicycle among the collection in the photo below!