Medical Conditions No Barrier To Excellence For ‘A’ Level Graduates

At an age when most of his peers are still mulling over career options, 19-year-old Darren Lou has known for years what he wants to do with his life.

Not only does he plan to be a doctor, he knows exactly which field he hopes to specialise in: Endocrinology, the study of the human body’s endocrine system, which deals with hormones and how it affects metabolism and growth, among other things. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago, Darren hopes to help other patients like himself.

Dealt a second blow a year later when a pre-enlistment check-up revealed that he had Brugada syndrome, a heart condition where sufferers face an increased risk of heart attack, Darren said: “Being a doctor is something I want to do (to help more people). I can empathise with pain that patients are going through and I want to help minimise their suffering.”

The Yishun Junior College student, who received his A-Level results yesterday, said words from his mother have helped him focus despite the setbacks to his health. “She told me (in Mandarin) that if I want to live, I should live to the fullest. If I don’t, I would be better off dead,” said Darren.

This spurred him to turn around his poor showing at the O-Levels. He scored four As and a B at the A-Levels, and plans to apply to both local and foreign medical schools. Having taken part in a five-week research attachment programme organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, he is also considering a career in research.

Also receiving her A-Level results yesterday was Ms Joan Hung, who persevered in completing the exams despite developing glaucoma during her first year at Pioneer Junior College. The condition damaged her optic nerves and further affected an eyesight already impaired by aniridia, an eye condition she was born with. That same year, she also discovered she is diabetic.

Joan, 19, has to sit for papers using monoculars to read and with the help of a scribe to draw diagrams — something she is unable to perform with her deteriorating eyesight. To accommodate her condition, she has up to five-and-a-half hours to complete each exam.

Nonetheless, Joan has always pushed herself. For example, she insisted on doing an oral presentation for Project Work despite her teachers offering her an exemption. Her parents, who are also visually impaired, played a role in shaping her personality. They encouraged her to try out new things such as cycling, which most people would assume is dangerous for someone who is visually impaired.

“It doesn’t really matter what circumstances you are in. You can’t change it … your health, family or financial status, but you can always change the way (you) react to it. If you ignore it, it won’t go away. But if you face it head-on, you will become better (prepared) for it,” said Joan.

While she felt she could have done better (she scored only one A in the exams) she hopes to be able to pursue a sociology or mathematics degree in university and become a teacher.



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