Hoei LAI Hoi Lam

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The doctors told my parents to prepare for the worst, but eventually, my heart started beating again, and I finally recovered after extensive treatment.

Emerging from the Shadows of Thalassaemia
Hoei’s Journey to Becoming a Nurse

Every dream has a story behind it. For Hoei Lai Hoi Lam, her dream of becoming a nurse was fueled by a near-death experience. Diagnosed with Thalassaemia major at birth, Hoei was once on the brink of death. As she grew up, she decided to contribute to Thalassaemia patients and at the same time, she enrolled in a nursing programme at Hong Kong Metropolitan University to learn professional nursing knowledge in the hope that she could help the needy in the future, especially the children who are suffering from the same disease as she is, and to bring smiles to their faces again.

In Hong Kong, one in twelve people carry the Thalassaemia gene, and Thalassaemia major is not uncommon. Shortly after Hoei’s birth, she was diagnosed with this acute and severe disease due to a persistent fever that necessitated an immediate blood transfusion. Over the years, Hoei had to undergo long-term blood transfusions, which resulted in iron deposition. When she returned home, she had to endure iron removal treatments, with the injection of an iron removal needle while she slept. “Just like Cinderella, I couldn’t go out at night,” Hoei, who is optimistic and cheerful, joked, “It’s a pretty long story.”

As a frequent hospitals patient, Hoei aspired to become a nurse when she was young. When she was nine years old, she received a suitable bone marrow transplant, and her family decided to let her undergo surgery to cure her anaemia. The transplant was successful, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. However, Hoei was suddenly re-admitted to the hospital with a high fever. Doctors discovered she was suffering from acute myocarditis, and her life was in danger. After emergency treatment and the use of artificial heart-lungs to keep her alive, Hoei fell into a coma in the ICU. “The doctors told my parents to prepare for the worst, but eventually, my heart started beating again, and I finally recovered after extensive treatment,” Hoei gratefully recalled.

Patience counts

With her anaemia nightmare behind her, Hoei enrolled in Hong Kong Metropolitan University’s Nursing programme, pursuing her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse. “When I was a child, I was frequently in and out of the hospital, and my parents,  busy with work, couldn't spend much time with me,” she shared. “Sometimes, when I was in the hospital and had to sleep alone, the nurses would come and chat with me. Thant meant to the world to a young child like me. ” The School of Nursing and Health Studies at Hong Kong Metropolitan University offers a five-year programme covering subjects like pathology and human structure, and students can also take subjects such as mathematics and economics for diversified development. The most crucial part of the programme is the practicum, which gives students the opportunity to work in major hospitals in their first year to gain first-hand healthcare experience; unfortunately, Hoei’s year of enrollment coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hoei is determined to become a nurse, hoping to bring hope to patients with what she has learned.
Hoei fondly recalls her unforgettable practicum at the hospital, experiencing the essence of medical work.

“I met some new students at the orientation camp, but then the epidemic broke out, and I had to switch to online classes at home,” Hoei said, expressing her frustration. All her scheduled practicum were cancelled due to the outbreak. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that things started to return to normal. Still, she had to manage the immense pressure of juggling classes, practicum, and exams. “Fortunately, I was able to cope with it.” Hoei confidently stated, expressing gratitude to her dedicated teachers. The School has also invested heavily in resources, including setting up laboratories and simulated wards in the new building and introducing a hospital-grade computer system to create a realistic learning environment.

Hoei, who aspires to become a pediatric nurse, believes that patience is more important when caring for children. “We need to communicate in a way that children can understand so that they won't be scared. For example, we can touch their hands with a piece of cotton to show them what the treatment is all about and reassure them that it won't hurt.” Hoei’s childhood experiences have given her unique insight into patients’ needs. With her professional knowledge and passion, she is sure to bring hope to many more patients.

Hoei LAI Hoi Lam

  • Year 4 student of Bachelor of Nursing with Honours in General Health Care
  • Awardee of the Talent Development Scholarship, the Self-financing Post-secondary Scholarship Scheme (SPSS) in 2022/23