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An Enduring Spark
28 February 2020

HCA Senior Kang Le Day Hospice Assistant Josephine Ang is pushing 70 but the sprightly lady exudes the same youthful vigour she had 19 years ago, when she first joined HCA. We chat with Josephine (far left) to find out what keeps her going and how the job has shaped her perspectives on life and death. 

By Toh Wei Shi, HCA Community Relations

1. When did you first join HCA and what inspired you to?

I joined HCA in August 2001. To be very frank, I had no knowledge about hospices and patient care then. It was Betty [a long-time Day Hospice volunteer] who introduced me to the job. Betty asked thrice – each time I gave her silly excuses (laughs) – but eventually I decided to entertain her and join in the capacity of a volunteer.

I still remember what I wore on my first day at HCA! At the end of the day, the team told me I was suitable for the role and, as they say, the rest is history.

2. How has HCA evolved over the years?

Over the years, HCA has done a lot in raising public awareness of palliative care. As a result, there are more volunteers – individuals and groups – coming in to lend a helping hand. Our Day Hospice patients now enjoy much better outings than before. There is a great variety in terms of the places our patients get to visit, like the S.E.A. Aquarium, Chinatown and the Singapore Zoo.

Previously, we used to go to the Labrador Park; we would bring fried beehoon, green bean soup and a portable CD player. The patients and staff had a lot of fun throwing balls around!

Josephine (foreground) on an outing with the Day Hospice patients.

3. You are the longest-serving staff in HCA. What keeps you going and what are the greatest challenges you have faced?

I believe it boils down to the person. I enjoy life – I think it’s an indulgence of the senses. I believe in living in the moment, enjoying the aroma of food and the greenery around us.

Working in HCA is like looking at a two-way mirror. We serve our patients, but we actually learn so much more from them. They have taught me a lot about letting go. If you don’t let go, you won’t be able to walk to the end.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction because I am self-sufficient and I get to do what I love.

The greatest challenge, I would say, has to be computer-related work!

4. Over the years, there must have been many patients who have passed through the doors of Kang Le Day Hospice. How do you cope with facing death all the time?

Death is inevitable for everyone. If the patients are very ill, I pray for a peaceful and comfortable ending, for them to get rest.

This job has also allowed me to meet friends I had lost touch with. Recently, I saw a patient from afar at the HCA Day Hospice and asked to speak to her because I found her familiar. It was amazing, I hadn’t seen her in over 40 years already.

5. Has there been a patient who has left a deep impression on you?

There was an elderly man, Mr Lim (not his real name), who attended Kang Le Day Hospice. He was hospitalised after his condition deteriorated. I visited him twice while he was in the hospital.

When Mr Lim was given a terminal discharge from the hospital, he asked to visit Kang Le Day Hospice. The ambulance took him here. It was his final wish to see all of us for the last time. He felt that we took very good care of him.

6. How has the job shaped your perspectives on death?

I think we should all enjoy life while we can, before the end comes. Every weekend, no matter how busy I am, I will personally cook and deliver food to my children’s homes.

I have no regrets in life. I work in such a good organisation and I always say that it’s the environment that enables us to do the best for our patients.