Photo credit: MEAGAN GOH

My mum’s ordeal with dengue taught me that ignorance is not always bliss

I thought dengue would never affect anyone around me until my mum got it.

Meagan Goh

Published: 1 October 2020, 9:17 PM

I was only 13 years old when my mum caught dengue, back in 2013.

I remember it happened while I was at a four-day, three-night band camp in secondary school. My teacher informed me that I had an emergency phone call from my dad and I picked up the phone with a nervous heart.

“Mummy has got dengue and is in the hospital now. Ah-ma and I will take care of her, you don’t worry, just focus on band camp okay?” my dad said.

Just like that, dengue went from being “not my concern” to a huge worry.

I felt distraught and helpless. Never had I thought that dengue would affect anyone I cared for, let alone my mum. I was foolish in underestimating how easy it was to catch it, as well as the physical and mental pain it would bring to my family.


My mum stayed in the hospital for about a week. However, her symptoms such as fever and vomiting lasted two weeks. PHOTO CREDIT: OLGA KONONENKO VIA UNSPLASH


After my dad hung up, I started to tear as my mind came up with the worst-case scenarios. However, the 13-year-old me did not know any better at that point in time and believed I had no choice but to heed my dad’s instructions to stay for the camp.

Throughout the camp, band practices were intensive. Our phones were kept by teachers to ensure that we focused on practicing for our upcoming performance at the Esplanade and I was too afraid to tell them about my predicament.

Having been cut off from everything, I was constantly worried over how my mum was doing. That made it difficult for me to focus on playing well and I eventually messed up my solo part in front of a large audience at the concert hall.


My French horn section was really small. With only three of us, it made it harder for me to leave. PHOTO CREDIT: ELIZABETH YU VIA UNSPLASH


I was embarrassed by my poor performance, but more relieved that band camp was finally over. As I jumped into my family car at the end of band camp, I was so happy to see my dad that my eyes turned watery.

But the tears of joy soon quickly turned into tears of sorrow when I saw my mum lying weakly on the hospital bed. Her lips were pale and she had lost so much weight, it was such a heart-breaking sight to witness. I gave her a huge hug and we spent the next few hours updating each other on things.

Fortunately, my mum’s case was not a life-threatening one and she was discharged a few days later. Although I wasn’t there from the start, I’m glad I got to be by her side everyday after band camp.

In hindsight, I realise I should have talked to my teacher and left camp early to be there for my mum. If things did not turn out as well as they did, I would have regretted my decision for life.


Mum and I on holiday at Khao Yai, Thailand, after her recovery. PHOTO CREDIT: MEAGAN GOH


This incident really served as a wake-up call for me. I learnt a very important lesson that dengue can affect anyone. If you have contracted it before, you can still contract it again. If you stay at home all day, there are still chances of you getting dengue. Unlike humans, dengue mosquitoes do not discriminate.

I also have tried my best to prevent such things from happening again by ensuring there is no stagnant water at home and changing the water in flower vases. Perhaps my mum wouldn’t have gotten dengue if I had practised these steps earlier.


We now invest in fake plants for decoration instead so as to reduce any potential risks of having stagnant water at home. PHOTO CREDIT: MEAGAN GOH


Although the saying goes “ignorance is bliss”, it can never be applied to dengue. I was once ignorant and never thought it would affect my family and I until it happened right before my eyes.

A piece of advice: Kill that mindset of thinking that it will never happen to you or those around you for anyone can contract dengue. Take precaution early, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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