If you wonder what motivates doctors, the honest ones will tell you that they like working with people, want to make a good living and earn respect from patients for their skills and expertise.
But there’s a doctor in Singapore whose motivation far exceeds these relatively mundane goals. Dr. Tan Poh Kiang, President of HCA Hospice Care, admits that he was “in it for the money” on the day he decided to run the Monster Ultra 200K between 29-and-31 March.
His major goal? Every cent of the S$200,000 prize money was to be given to the charity that had employed him for the past five years, HCA. In other words, he had more riding on his performance than ever before.
Why did Dr. Tan feel so strongly about completing this ultra? For two personal reasons. Dr Tan will be completing his 5-year presidency at HCA in August 2019 and saw this as a special way to make a dramatic farewell gesture that would resonate far beyond his tenure. He wanted show his gratitude to the amazing agency he had led for half a decade and the amazing support everyone from staff to volunteers had given him.
The second reason is far more touching. Dr. Tan’s beloved brother-in-law Ching Sim Lie, passed away on 2 August 2018, and Dr. Tan needed something more significant than just a eulogy to pay tribute to the man who had been a trusted friend and brother. Those were two very powerful reasons the doctor was willing to push his limits to the extreme to conquer this daunting ultra.
Dr. Tan is no stranger to the end of life journey. “Nearly all of us want to end life’s journey at home. But on average, that wish comes true only 30-percent of the time,” he laments. Perhaps it was divine intervention that landed him on the multidisciplinary team at HCA Hospice Care where he oversaw all aspects of training, equipping and supporting family caregivers.
“When a patient dies in the comfort of his or her own home surrounded by loved ones, especially if he or she experiences minimal suffering, there’s a dignity that settles over the home as a vigil filled with compassion and love comforts and reassures everyone at the bedside. To give this gift to families free of charge, regardless of their citizenship and socioeconomic status, has been a privilege,”
Dr. Tan explains.
Since HCA operates on a budget of around $12 million annually, the 200,000 dollars Dr. Tan won by running his race is expected to make a big difference in the lives of approximately 4,000 families who call upon HCA to help them get through this heartbreaking time. And because Dr. Tan has engendered so much admiration, he didn’t run alone. Accompanying him on his journey were two strangers who became friends even before they arrived at the start line: Leana Savenkova and Terence Kew.
“As soon as I got word of Dr. Tan’s challenge, I knew I had to be part of his effort,” said Leana, whose own passion for running is formidable. The IT professional recalled her mom passing away a few months before the race in Moscow and won’t soon forget the hospice experience that helped her family get through the pain surrounding her mom’s passing.
Fellow runner Terence Kew also ran with Dr. Tan since he was a seasoned ultra event participant and fully understood that the doctor would need all of the support he could muster. “I knew that Dr. Tan would have company during the 200K, but I worried there might be times when he would have to run alone, perhaps without the encouragement and assurances he would need to keep going,” he said.
“I decided that I would be there for him from beginning to end. I was prepared to “whip his ass” if necessary,” joked Terence, also an IT professional whose personal experiences with hospice helped drive his desire to accompany Dr. Tan.
Should there be more doctors on the planet capable of exhibiting this much devotion to terminally ill patients and families? Ideally, yes. And as long as physicians like Dr. Tan are literally and figuratively perpetually ready go the extra mile and set an example for all the world to see, no Singaporean should ever have to worry about dying alone.
The unselfish acts of kindness, compassion and drive that Dr. Tan exhibited during the 200K run show the world what one human being can do armed with enough faith, dedication and belief in death with dignity to put everything on the line. In fact, Dr. Tan’s deep faith in God instilled in him a belief that he would never run alone!
For more information about Dr Tan Poh Kiang ultrarunning trilogy, you can visit 200k for 200k website.