IN LIFE, nurse Tan Sew Kee was meticulous, well-organised and dedicated to caring for others.So as the end drew near, she went about planning her legacy with the same exacting standards.Diagnosed with motor neuron disease, she sold her flat and arranged for the proceeds to go towards research into the cruel and debilitating condition.
Yesterday, a $321,000 cheque was presented on her behalf during a gala dinner at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
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The senior staff nurse – who died in July 2011 at the age of 53 – spent most of her career at Singapore General Hospital, where she worked closely with surgeons in the operating theatre.
After being given only two years to live, she found out first-hand what little knowledge caregivers and medical personnel have of the incurable disease, which slowly robs the nerves in the spine and brain of their functions.
Ms Tan decided to sell her Housing Board flat in Ang Mo Kio and donate the proceeds to the school, to pay for neuroscience research.
Her long-time friend, Madam Lam Sek Onn, said the late nurse was spurred to make the gesture by her passion for caring for patients. The two women graduated together from nursing school in 1975.
Madam Lam, who is in her 60s, told The Straits Times: “She was very positive and she knew how to be a good patient. She made it very easy for people to take care of her.“
Even though she was sick and slowly losing her ability to walk, talk and eat, she was never depressed.”
Professor Tan Ser Kiat, who worked alongside her at the hospital for more than 20 years, described Ms Tan as a most competent nurse.
“She was excellent…and she could read exactly what the surgeon wanted,” said the orthopaedic surgeon.
“She knew the right tools to pass to me at the right time, without me having to tell her.”
Ms Tan’s nephew, 26-year-old Kelvin Yue, also shared fond memories of his aunt.
The business developer recalled the poignant moment when he stumbled upon her diary after her death.
The nurse had used it to jot down her thoughts and communicate with her maid when she started to lose the ability to talk.
“She wrote that she felt fortunate to have lived a good 50 years, and even had the chance to visit 13 countries, except the United States, Canada and India. She was that detailed,” Mr Yew said, with a laugh.
Ms Tan’s cheque was presented to President Tony Tan Keng Yam, the guest of honour at yesterday’s fund-raising gala dinner.
A total of $16 million was generated at the event, which was attended by 900 guests, including this year’s batch of new graduates.
The school said donations still play a critical role in providing financial aid for students and funding research and education programmes.