The panic, the chaos, the desperation, and the constant hope that fill the ER are part of Dr. Jade Kua’s everyday reality. As a pediatric emergency specialist, she is at the forefront of the battle between hope and hopelessness, but instead of being defeated, Dr. Kua actually thrives on it.
“A wide range of cases, from medical to surgical, is brought to us at the emergency department, and the challenge is telling exactly what is wrong,” says Dr. Kua. “People don’t always come with a diagnosis,” she says, “they may only know that they are in pain, or that something is wrong. While a grown-up can tell you where the pain is, a child may only cry. It is our job to find out why. We have to do some sleuthing – some detective work – and that’s when it gets interesting.”
A mother of three small children and three teenage stepchildren, Dr. Kua empathizes with parents who come to the hospital with a sick child. “The child may have a fever that could be managed at home, or a condition that will disappear with simple remedy, but the mother in me likes to spend a little more time with those parents to explain how to manage the condition, or to reassure them that we’re doing everything we can. It helps me communicate better with them.”
Making tough calls, often all at the same time, has taught Dr. Kua to stay focused. “It helps to go about things logically. You have to analyze the situation based on evidence and how the patients present themselves. It is very important not get sucked emotionally into the situation.”
She admits that the sheer volume of patients that are brought to the emergency department makes for a tension-filled atmosphere. Every second and every decision counts. But Dr. Kua acknowledges the support she gets – from the nurses who support the decisions she makes, to the junior doctors who attend to other patients. “I also have the support of my family – my husband and my kids help me to get by.”
Dr. Kua emphasizes patience when taking a medical history from the parents. “You have to do a thorough physical examination, and you need to be very careful with the kind of investigations you order, so that you create the best benefit and the least risk for the patient.”
“My job with the Ministry of Health’s Unit for Pre-hospital Emergency Care is to educate the community on what to do in those emergency situations.” Dr. Jade and her peers have been teaching a highly effective class called DARE – Dispatcher-Assisted first Responder Program – to schools and the general public. They are also behind the campaign to install AEDs in public places. “We collaborate with many partners, including the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defense Force), which manages the paramedics and the ambulances.”
Dr. Kua is satisfied with the result of her advocacy, but admits that there is more to be done. “Anybody can save a life – if one is willing and dares to do it,” she emphasizes. At UPEC we equip everyone with the know-how to do it.
The lady in a gown at a high profile society event is the very same one in scrubs calling the shots at the emergency room, but people may find it difficult to reconcile these two aspects of Dr. Jade Kua. A modern woman, she balances the demands of her profession, her home life, and her commitment to the community. She shows appreciation for life by living and enjoying it fully.
“A lot of us think that cardiac arrests only happen in old-folks homes, to the elderly, and those who have a lot of medical difficulties. That is not true,” Dr. Kua says. “We have more than 2,000 cardiac arrests in a year in Singapore, and some of the victims are actually fit young men who don’t have any previous medical problems.”
A number of deaths can be avoided if only more people knew how to help, but a lot of people are scared to help someone who has collapsed, Dr. Kua explains. It often comes from not knowing what to do or being afraid that doing something might aggravate the situation, she adds.
“All you need to do is remember these three simple steps: Call 995 and Stay on the Line. Push Hard and Fast as you perform CPR. Get an AED if available!