• Jocelyn was a nurse who became a patient suffering a rare disease
  • She appreciates her being treated as a patient, and not just an illness, by her care team
  • Support from her family and friends was priceless in her road to recovery
My recent brush with death put me on the other side of the bed.   I went from fit young nurse tending to patients to the one lying in bed, being tended.
My nightmare started with my taking a common painkiller/antibiotic in November 2013.   My eyes started swelling; I had fever and rashes.   An allergic reaction or a virus infection, I thought.
I went to consult the doctor, and was later warded.   I remember being in the general ward with swollen lips, itching badly everywhere, and telling a friend I would be out of there very soon. The next thing I know, I was waking up in the Intensive Care Unit three weeks later.
I had Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a severe form of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.   A rare and life-threatening skin condition that affects not just the skin but also the mucous membrane.   A condition usually triggered by ingesting certain medication, patients with this condition suffer from inflammation and death of their skin cells.
"It was a rude shock to be so ill. After all, I was a nurse, young and invincible."
I have no memory of what happened when I was fighting for my life as I was in a drug-induced sleep.   What I do remember is waking up to light, like being pulled out of a dream by gentle hands and the vague sense that I had gone through a terrible ordeal.
The illness affected almost every part of my body. I was swollen to twice my usual size and had to undergo dialysis.   My eyes were blurry, I could not breathe easily and I could barely move my limbs.   I couldn’t speak because of the tubes in my mouth; couldn’t eat because of the sores on my gums.   Everything hurt.   I was as helpless as one can get.
I remember, when I was a student-nurse caring for helpless individuals, I thought I would never allow myself to fall into such a state.   Ironical that a year or so later, I would be in such a state.
"What I do remember is waking up to light, like being pulled out of a dream by gentle hands and the vague sense that I had gone through a terrible ordeal."
It was a rude shock to be so ill.   After all, I was a nurse, young and invincible.   Illness was not supposed to touch me.   The three days of dialysis when I was in ICU were the most frustrating, especially in my conscious state.   I had to stay still until the machine had finished filtering my blood.   Three days of wide-eyed consciousness.
My only consolation was seeing my family and friends.   I found out from them that there would be a fund-raiser event to help with my huge medical expenses.   It was astounding to me that there were people who cared enough to help me this way.   It’s the kind of thing that restores one’s faith in humanity.
A day before Christmas, I was transferred to the High Dependency Unit.   As I slowly regained my strength, I really appreciated the doctors and the nurses who cared for me.   I was more than just a case or illness to them – I would always be thankful for how I was treated with respect and kindness.
My road to recovery has not been smooth.   There were complications, such as a blood clot in my left leg, fluid in my lungs, and the electrolyte imbalance that put me back in the hospital a day after my discharge.
But I am so glad that my road to recovery is paved with hope. With my family and friends by my side, I know I’ll make it.

Hear more from Jocelyn and Inspirational Caregiver, Choy Wen Hui at Synergy x Grapevine, Academia Auditorium, 9 Sep, 12.00-2.00pm!