'While I battled Sars, Dad died in ward above'
Doctor says being infected with virus, while personal tragedy hit, made him a better medic
For Dr Yeung Koon-sing, battling his Sars infection in 2003 was like taking a "roller-coaster ride".
Not only did he have to go through the physical ordeal of having the virus, but his father died at the same time, in the same hospital, from heart disease.
"I wanted to be a doctor when I was four, because my father had a problem with his liver, kidneys and heart," Yeung said at an event yesterday, where medical staff reflected on the Sars epidemic in Hong Kong that killed 299 people in the city.
"When I was little, I held my father's hand and accompanied him to the doctor. I told him I wanted to be his doctor when I grew up. When he suddenly passed away, I lost my motivation," he said.
Yeung was a final-year Chinese University medical student working as an intern at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin when he was infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome, a form of atypical pneumonia caused by a type of coronavirus.
When he was admitted to the well-known 8A ward, he was shocked to learn many of the Sars patients there were also his colleagues. After Yeung was infected, he developed problems breathing and feared that he would die in hospital.
Worse still, his father had been sent to the same hospital, admitted to ward 9A, just the floor above. Despite him being so excruciatingly close, Yeung could not visit his critically ill father.
When he discovered his father had died, he lost the will to pursue his studies.
But eventually, with the support of his family and friends, he regained his motivation and became more determined to qualify as a doctor.
"My girlfriend visited me after signing a [waiver of liability agreement]. It was only a 30-second stay but she asked me to keep [my spirits] up. She told me that my father did not want me to fail," Yeung recalled.
He left the hospital ward after three weeks. He later married his girlfriend and Yeung is now a specialist in respiratory medicine at Tuen Mun Hospital.
As a doctor who had survived Sars, he said he better understood how his patients felt when he met them.
Sharing her experience at the same event, Natalie Chan recalled how she was infected with Sars while working as a nurse at the same hospital. Despite her battle with the virus, Chan said she would not hesitate to care for Sars patients if another outbreak struck the city.
Food and Health Bureau Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday the government would continue to strengthen the disease notification mechanism with mainland and international organisations.
Sars infected 8,096 people globally, and 1,775 in Hong Kong in the outbreak. There were 1,775 cases in Hong Kong.