Despite severe nosebleeds and bouts of dizzy spells arising from a nose tumour, he persevered through his whole exam in hospital.

HAI SING O LEVELS-cropped
Zachary Chew with his mother, Mrs Irene Chew (left), and form teachers Mr Edmund Tham and Mrs Tracy Lee.

Christopher Khoo

It was just two days to his first O level exam paper, and Zachary Chew found himself hospitalised for a severe nosebleed and bouts of dizzy spells.

Last year, he was diagnosed with a benign tumour in his nose which caused nosebleeds. When the bleeding took a turn for the worse, he had to be hospitalised.

Undaunted by his predicament, and with needles sticking out of the back of his hands for the administration of the intravenous drips, Zachary insisted that he wanted to sit for his exams. This made writing a challenge.

“I had to write slowly. My handwriting was very bad. But I wanted to do the exams,” said Zachary, 17, a former Normal (Academic) student of Hai Sing Catholic School. “Because if I didn’t do it, I would be wasting the entire year.”

On Jan 14, Zachary received his O level results – and he scored an aggregate of 21. His first paper was one of two on Elementary Math, which he passed.

The school had swung into action to arrange for him to take his exams in the Changi General Hospital. His form teachers and school principal also visited him at the hospital.

Principal Daniel Ang told Catholic News that the school’s Catholic ethos “has its roots in the spirit of service and care for each student” that the school’s founders, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, “lived out in their running of the school”.

Zachary’s nosebleeds started in February last year and the X-rays and CT scans revealed a growth in the left side of his nose. The plan then was to have the growth removed after his O levels.

But as it turned out, the bleeding could not wait. It was a challenge as he had to write while sitting in the hospital bed and with intravenous needles sticking out from his hands.

As his blood pressure was low, he also found it difficult to concentrate.

Nevertheless, he persevered, and was able to adapt better to his situation in the second week of exams. His efforts paid off and his results qualify him to enter a polytechnic.

His advice for students who are coping with medical issues: “Always have a positive mindset … work towards the future rather than blame yourself for having a disadvantage.”

Zachary is the youngest of four siblings. His family attends a megachurch in Singapore, and he received prayer support from church friends during his time in hospital.

He added that he was “grateful to God because if it was not for Him I would not be blessed with wonderful teachers at school who would take the extra effort to help me arrange for my papers to be taken at the hospital. I am also grateful to God for giving me the strength to be able to pull through each paper even though I had low blood pressure and was constantly tired.”

He now feels better after the tumour, about the width of a 50-cent coin, was removed in late November. He still has to go for follow-up appointments with his doctor.

His form teachers, Mr Edmund Tham and Mrs Tracy Lee, told Catholic News he is a model for other students in terms of his positive attitude regarding his medical condition.

“He has been very optimistic,” said Mrs Lee, in wanting to go through with his exams.

Zachary is interested in studying business and media and hopes to be a media producer in the future. 

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