Finding purpose

Pain In An Answered Prayer

Author and publisher: Hannah P.Y. Hiew, 82 pages

LIFE is full of uncertainties. What do you do when life deals you some hard blows? It is all too easy to wallow in self-pity and ask, “Why me?” That is understandable, of course, a typical human response.

Hannah Hiew often wondered why she was born with thalassaemia. At eight months old, she was diagnosed with the blood disorder, and was not expected to live beyond 10 years of age.

But Hiew beat the odds and is now 35 years old. In this memoir, she shares with unflinching honesty her daily struggles of living with thalassaemia, going for monthly blood transfusions (which will be required as long as she lives), coping with the side effects of that (ie, iron accumulating in her body due to the repeated transfusions) and having to rely on iron chelation injections and medication to remove the excess iron from her body. She has had to take a host of medicines – some for the disorder, others for the side effects of treatment – to stabilise her condition.

She has also had to cope with swelling of her heart and ankles, an enlarged spleen, shortness of breath, giddiness, water retention, allergies and hair loss. For a long time, she could not indulge in dance or cycling, her favourite pastimes.

Hiew would later develop diabetes, too, which required insulin injections.

Due to her health history, even holding down a job proved elusive as employers did not want to confirm her as a permanent employee; all except for one truly understanding employer.

Not only did Hiew suffer from these sicknesses, she also found herself spiralling into depression, especially after her parents separated. She had to battle anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and negative (even suicidal) thoughts.

At one point, she suffered a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalised in a psychiatric ward for treatment.

In the midst of her physical, mental and emotional anguish, she found strength and solace in her God and discovered a purpose to live for. Her church “family”, too, has been a source of comfort and encouragement whenever she hits rock-bottom.

Her story reveals the transformation of a person who was self-centred, insecure, pessimistic, bad-tempered and immature into someone who is optimistic, caring, patient and gracious towards others. It’s as if a chrysalis has opened to reveal a lovely butterfly.

Hiew is grateful to her caregivers – her two elder sisters and, especially, her mother, Cindy Lim, who taught her to be independent.

She has not been cured of thalassaemia but the fact that Hiew is still alive today, 25 years longer than expected, is nothing short of a miracle. There has been incredible improvement in her condition, however, so much so that she could take part in dance – a dream come true!

Having gained an eternal perspective on her pain and suffering, she has come to accept – nay, embrace –her lot in life, to see the purpose for it, and to use her life experiences to comfort and encourage others, particularly those suffering from similar conditions.

Apart from lifting the spirits of anyone who reads it, this book is also helpful in shedding light on thalassaemia and diabetes. One comes away with a good understanding of the disorders and their effect on afflicted families, especially the strain on patients and caregivers.

> Pain In An Answered Prayer is available at Canaanland (03-7885 0540) and Glad Sounds (03-7956 2901) outlets in the Klang Valley, the Salvation Bookstore in Kuala Lumpur (03-9133 3902), and the Bible Society of Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, Selangor (03-7727 8215). The author has pledged 20% of the proceeds from sales of the book to the Thalassaemia Friends Support Fund.

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