Three times a lady


INSPIRATIONAL: Conquering overwhelming odds by soaring above the waves of adversity with courage, fortitude and a never-say-die fighting spirit.

MIRACLE heart girl Tee Hui Yee passed away last week, eleven days before her 19th  birthday.

Hui Yee made headlines five years ago when she underwent her first heart transplant at the National Heart Institute in October 2007.

Her body rejected the heart of the first donor but she received a second heart … from a boy within 48 hours of the accident that took his life.

Before the transplants, Hui Yee lugged around a 9.8kg mechanical battery-operated heart after suffering a heart failure at the age of 14.

A doctor friend thought of Lionel Ritchie’s hit – Three times a lady – when he read about the untimely death of Hui Yee, saying she is a miracle that inspires the nation with her grit and determination to technically live three lives – thus three times a lady.

This 1978 single is one of the most speculated about in history with all sorts of stories about the cryptic lyrics:


Thanks for the times

That you’ve given me

The memories are all in my mind

And now that we’ve come

To the end of the rainbow

There’s something

I must say out loud


You’re once twice

Three times a lady.


The more acceptable explanation to me is this: Lionel Ritchie had reportedly said at one concert he was inspired to write the song because of a comment his father made about his mother  – I love you. I want you. I need you. Hence the phrase – three times a lady.

That’s the famous pop singer’s story of a man’s love for a woman that made her three times a lady.

What legacy has our own young and brave three times a lady left for the nation? Undoubtedly, it’s an undying fighting spirit to beat the odds to survive – and to live.

Hui Yee had fought a good fight. In the words of MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, she can be described as a tough survivor who fought until the very end.

When she made her first public appearance in front of the media at 14, the nation saw her pushing a machine which looked especially big besides her fragile body. That was her – strapped 24 hours with the mechanical heart pumping life into her.

We are all fighting to keep healthy and stay alive. Hui Yee’s battle was much tougher. At 11, she was diagnosed with heart disorder and forced to stop schooling as her health deteriorated.

After an external mechanical heart was implanted to keep her alive, she had to wait for more than a year to get a heart from the first human donor.

During the waiting period, her disposition was always cheerful and the courage she showed in the face of adversity truly warmed the cockles of the heart. Many thought she had half the battle won with her innate strength in dealing realistically and openly with everything that came her way while she waited patiently for the “gift of life” to arrive. And arrive it did.

The nation rejoiced when her first transplant was made possible by a donor’s heart. However, her body rejected the transplanted organ and a second heart was needed.

After another wait, she underwent a second operation and came through it in good con-dition. We call it a miracle! But we know the major contributing factor to her successful operation was her never-say-die determination.

With a cheerful spirit, she spent the next few months in hospital.

Shamsuria Ahmad, the ICU nurse-manager at the National Heart Institute who was part of the team that cared for her, remarked: “She loved to make people laugh and was always happy despite her condition.”

Indeed, she had a good conscience. Here was a girl battling for her life, yet still had the heart to cheer people up.

Though her dream to educate and coach children as a kindergarten teacher did not come true, the bravery of Hui Yee had touched the hearts of many and inspired them to give of a best part of themselves so that others in need may live.

The ‘gift of life’ is a fitting legacy left by this lion-hearted teenager who was called to her rest well before her time.

One hundred and seventy-three trainee nurses and instructors of Kolej Jururawat Mas-yarakat Tawau have decided to pledge as organ donors in memory of Hui Yee.

Regional Transplant and Procurement manager Dr Cheah Phee Kheng said: “Although I have not met Hui Yee personally, she has inspired my team and I to constantly work towards getting organ donors. Looking at her living life to the fullest is our inspiration to give more people like her a second chance in life.”

The recent efforts of the Health Ministry to collect statistics on organ donations with a view to present a draft legislation before parliament have received mixed reactions.

Let us pray the courage, cheerfulness and fighting spirit of our three times a lady in the face of overwhelming odds will not be forgotten but continue to inspire all, especially those waiting to receive organs, those contemplating to pledge as organ donors and those with a calling to create societal awareness of the selfless need to offer people “a gift of life” in their hour of need.