Yeo Pee Pin is not letting brain injury, heart attack, cardiac surgeries, pneumonia, seizures, intubations and several cardiopulmonary resuscitations get in his way.
When one is faced with one challenge after another, it is easy to give up but not Yeo Pee Pin. He has had every reason to surrender. The 73-year-old has had a brain injury, heart attack, cardiac surgeries, pneumonia, seizures, intubations and several cardiopulmonary resuscitations. With such cards stacked up against him, he has come through all this and more, continuing to persevere and with strong determination. It is no wonder, he has been called “magic man”.
The father of three and grandfather of two was very active before all this happened to him. He was an auditor for 40 years working at the Auditor-General’s Office and was playing lots of badminton and table tennis, even competing in competitions and winning a number of awards. He also jogged every morning.
When it all went pear shape
But then came 2015. When he was playing table tennis, he had a heart attack, fell and hurt his head. Pee Pin didn’t realise he had a heart attack. He managed to drive home without his glasses and could not recall what happened to him when his family asked. His son, Jason Yeo, noticed something was amiss as he seemed tired and very drowsy, and thought he may have had a heart attack. He immediately sent Pee Pin to the hospital and his fears were confirmed that his father indeed had a heart attack and he had to go for bypass surgery with a stent put in. Even today, his son doesn’t understand how his father got a heart attack as his cholesterol level was not high.
Though all went well with the surgery, that night, it was discovered that he also had swelling in his brain from a brain clot from the fall. Pee Pin had to go in for yet another surgery to reduce the swelling. As the swelling was bad as Jason recalled, the doctor had to excavate his father’s right skull leaving a visible indentation on the side of his head. During Pee Pin’s stay at the hospital, he had two cardiopulmonary resuscitations, a week apart. Jason shared that the family wanted Pee Pin to continue to live and hopefully, see him one day active as he used to be. After all the surgeries, he did a month of rehabilitation at St Luke’s Hospital to help with his walking and his speech, which also got affected.
Though his troubles did not end there. His daughter, Yeo Yee Han, shared that he started to have regular seizures – with some being quite serious. She explained: “When the seizures last too long, it could cause further damage to his brain which could lead to physical coordination/morbidity/cognitive function.” He also had pneumonia, which landed him back in the hospital several times. At the hospital, he also had several intubations which left him requiring a feeding tube for a while. She further shared from 2016 onwards, despite all that happened, her father continued with speech and physio therapy at home, and was in and out of hospital till 2018 because of pneumonia. Pee Pin was taking medications for his seizures as well as for his heart, which he continues even today.
During COVID-19, he did not go into the hospital but this year, he contracted dengue and was back in the hospital. He still has the occasional seizure but it does not last as long as before and it “self-aborts”, as Yee Han explained. She added that he was bedridden for some time and his doctor even wrote him off whenever he was sent to the emergency room and would always ask the family to prepare for the worst. But, Pee Pin wasn’t about to let that happen and he has proven not only to the doctor but everyone else that they were wrong.
The doctor and others probably couldn’t imagine the improvement he has made so far. He is no longer bedridden but on a wheelchair and uses a walking frame every morning to get to the bathroom. He is also no longer on a feeding tube, stopping that two years ago. His arteries are still blocked and goes for regular check-ups.
He didn’t get to where he is today without help. Pee Pin chalks it up to having a strong fate in God and shared he is motivated to carry on because of his children. He also has a strong and independent spirit, something he grew up with. He is the eldest of three siblings and when younger, he would help to support them. Jason shared that his father served National Service for six years instead of the regular two years, just to continue supporting his family.
Pee Pin is also putting his commitment to improving his quality of life and leaving the past happenings behind him. A few year back, he started off with conventional rehabilitation at the National University Hospital and later, Alexandra Hospital (AH). This is where he was put through the same exercises day in and day out, and helped by hospital therapists. He even tried robotic rehabilitation at AH just before the pandemic started such as therapy using the exoskeleton as well as the Lokomat, a highly intensive physiological gait rehabilitation using the exoskeleton system. The latter has a harness to allow patients to gain confidence and become more independent in their rehabilitation. However, Pee Pin’s family found that he was not making much improvement in the hospital setting.
Jason then found the Singapore Rehabilitation Centre, a private facility which has the Lokomat and his father is now trying to go for weekly one-hour sessions with therapists there. Jason shared that since he stopped the feeding tube, he can even eat durian on his own with no issues.
Pee Pin called his current robotic therapy “fun” and less mundane than the conventional rehabilitation and he remarked that it gives him more “dignity” and certainly, empowerment as his daughter added. At home, he continues his rehabilitation with a twenty-minute session on the stationary bike every day. He enjoys reading books and keeping up-to-date with the latest in the newspaper, and hopes one day he may walk independently. He further emphasised his simple motto that keeps him going – never give up. For many of us who would give up, we can all take a leaf out of his book.