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“Why would we not be kind to one another? Our work is already very challenging and very stressful, dealing with life and death. We have to help one another to be able to do this long term,” says Dr Alvin Ngeow, Consultant in our Department of Neonatal and Development Medicine.
While he needed no other motivations, his thoughtfulness prompted his senior colleague, Dr Sridhar Arunachalam, to nominate him for the Genuine Care Award.
Work in the Neonatal unit, especially the ICU, is usually acute and fast-paced, says Dr Alvin. “In the SGH neonatal unit, we often see critically-ill or very premature babies. This is because SGH treats many patients with complicated pregnancies. Many of the mothers have multiple medical issues, such as end-stage renal failure, cancers, etc.
“In the most severe and acute cases, the newborns arrive at the Neonatal ICU (NICU) requiring mechanical ventilation to survive. But because they are so tiny, some weighing as little as 300 or 400 grams, medical procedures including intubation and line insertion can be very challenging,” elaborates Dr Alvin.
It has made a deep impression on his colleague, Senior Consultant Dr Sridhar, who cited how Dr Alvin “never thinks twice” whenever his colleagues ask for his help in such situations - even when he is not on-call.
But Dr Alvin thinks nothing of his actions. “I have often asked for and received help in such situations, too, and similarly will not hesitate to help when there are such sick babies in our unit.”
Dr Sridhar is also inspired by another gesture that Dr Alvin does for the parents of babies in NICU, so much so that he has gone on to do the same.
“Often, the babies arrive at NICU very ill, and the parents would be in great distress, too. It is also common for the father to come alone with the baby, as the mother would still be in the labour ward or the Operating Theatre. While many of the babies get better, some will pass away. Alvin would offer to take photos of the baby with the father, to capture their precious moment together. I’d never thought of doing it before, but now I do it for my patients, too,” says Dr Sridhar.
“I’m not from Singapore. When I joined SGH 12 years ago, I was a Registrar and Alvin was a Medical Officer. There was an instance then when my little daughter was ill at home, having breathing difficulties. I was at work and couldn’t attend to her. He went from his home to see her, and after assessing her he gave her medicines to help her get better,” he recalls.
What motivates Dr Alvin to go above and beyond? “I find it extremely satisfying and challenging to be able to help critically-ill babies who are so premature and small - to help them overcome this difficult phase of their life and enter this world, making sure they go home to happy parents as happy babies. Babies have tremendous potential for recovery, which is really wonderful and amazing! This gives me hope and strength to do this long term,” explains Dr Alvin.
Wanting to do better for his tiny patients, Dr Alvin has just returned from a six-month Fellowship in Melbourne with Prof Sheryle Rogerson, to learn how to use point-of-care ultrasound in neonatal intensive care. “When neonatologists themselves can do the scans, it gives us quicker answers when every second counts. This is certainly something I am very interested in and I have gone to learn from the best.”
Do you have a colleague who genuinely cares for others all the time? Look out for our next Genuine Care Award Nominations in the second half of 2023!
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