24 May, 2012

Story of a sinseh

I decided to write this entry about a sinseh I know because I think it’s something important for us to think about life and change.


Since very young, my family has pretty much relied on a sinseh we knew. It’s not just us either. Many people in the heartland areas knew of his capability, and it’s all too well-displayed in his medical store too. From certificates to newspaper articles, they were all milestones of his gradual success, and it left people no doubt of his skills and experiences.

But that was ten years ago.

I don’t go to the doctor often, so my impression of him and his small clinic remained in his glory days, until some time last year when I hurt my back.

It was a pretty nasty situation, and visiting the sinseh came to my mind first, even after so many years. To my surprise, my mother’s reaction was of doubt. The sinseh is getting old, and many have started to feel that he may not be up to standard anymore.

On the other hand, aside from the technicalities, going to a sinseh is partially about trust too. If you don’t trust the doctor, it’s possible that you would not benefit from the session.

Back to the story. I would never forget the day when I visited his clinic.

The decors remained, the diagnostic room is still the same. But there’s a hint of age in everything including the doctor. The newspaper cuttings are faintly yellow, the benches are slightly torn, and the sinseh has more wrinkles than how I remembered, and his movements are significantly slower too.

Call me an antique if you must, but I’m the kind of person who trusts until I’m thoroughly disappointed. Since he has been an effective and awesome doctor all along, I had no issues trusting him.

But the whole experience made me see the rise and fall of such doctors. They work so hard to save lives, but how many people would remember to thank them when they are up and well?

These unsung heroes are the ones behind the goodness of so many of us, but as they age, we leave them behind when they could no longer catch up.

Who would care if they are doing well? Who would care to make sure that they transit into old age well taken care of?

With his medical practice, he saved lives, and burnt his own, even after he lost his precious receptionist, namely his wife.

Unlike professional western doctors, he concocts medicine base on his diagnosis, and he nags at patients like me as if there’s no tomorrow. One of the things I’d never forget that he said was when my brother hurt his ankle after a basketball game in the neighbourhood. He asked my brother, would you get a trophy for playing this hard in the game?

Being young and healthy, we took so many things for granted, and I did not see his point then. But now I understood what he was driving at.

Health isn’t a given, and it should be regarded with even more value when we are well, not just when we are lying on a hospital bed. The value of life may be the life in the years we have, but if we don’t take care to ensure we have more years of life, we are just as well reducing the life we were originally suppose to have in our limited years.

Every now and then, I would wonder how the sinseh is doing. What would become of him in another ten years’ time? Who would remember him, and how he served his patients?

Piles of patient records were kept in his room, all handwritten. Just like how we lost focus on the importance of handwritten letters compared to the emails in digital age, sinseh like him are losing their places in Singapore as western-educated doctors are more and more prominent.

How many people would remember this sinseh who went beyond the standard medical operation procedures? How many would remember his passion of healing lives, and imparting important life lessons to us in the process? Who would remember his touch that gave us the second chance to walk and be well?

Above all, who would remember and respect him, when he can no longer serve us anymore?