2022-06-20 (9)

Deputy Commissioner of Police in Malaysia, Dato Tan Chong Jin, was critically ill with Covid before he had the chance to be vaccinated. As he lay dying, his friends were separately awakened by God and instructed to pray to "bring him out from the jaws of death". All photos courtesy of Dato Tan Chong Jin.

Dato Tan Chong Jin, Deputy Commissioner of Police in Malaysia, has had – not one – but a few close encounters with death.

Ironically, none of them had anything to do with his job. In fact, the now Commandant of the Royal Malaysia Police College in Kuala Lumpur has been in the police force for 35 years without incident.

Dato Tan had the title of “Dato” conferred on him by the Sultan of the State of Pahang.

“My father was a policeman. So, I was probably influenced by my environment. It was my first and only job after I graduated with a degree in Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Malaya,” he told Salt&Light over Zoom.

“I believe He has planned for me to do something for His kingdom.”

Instead, each near-death experience – he almost drowned, was seconds away from being crushed by a falling flyover, went into a coma because of Covid – happened while he was going about his normal life.

While others may chalk each episode up to coincidence and each save to good fortune, Dato Tan, who has been a Christian since his university days, believes God spared his life each time.

“I don’t know why God sustained me and gave me a few chances in life. But I believe God gave me this opportunity and that He has planned for me to do something for His kingdom.”

Dato Tan, who is turning 60, thinks that all this might be God preparing him for a new season of ministry when he retires in a month.

The first save

Two years ago in January, Dato Tan was on a work trip with fellow officers. During their recreation time, the group decided to go scuba diving off Mabul Island, a tiny island off the southeastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia.

While spending some time off on a work trip, Dato Tan encountered difficulties while scuba diving and nearly drowned.

He was 50 feet (15m) underwater exploring a shipwreck when he decided to have a closer look at the deck of the sunken ship. So, he signalled his intention to his dive buddy.

“When I went on the deck, I saw two big holes in it. The moment I saw the holes, it felt like the hole was trying to suck me in.

“I realised that life can just be taken away within one or two minutes. I could have drowned.”

“I lost control and I felt like my whole body was spinning like I was in a washing machine.”

His dive buddy noticed he was in distress and caught hold of his hand to steady him.

“It happened within seconds. I just felt hopeless. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It had never happened to me before.”

Before Dato Tan could collect himself, he found that he had been hauled to the surface. His colleagues helped to remove his regulator and face mask.

“I felt a gush of wind blow onto my face. The spinning in my head disappeared and I was back to normal. I don’t know what happened or why.

“I did ask my sergeant, ‘If you had not pulled me up, what would have happed to me? He said, ‘Then Dato mati (die).’

Dato Tan (right, seated) with his wife Anna (left, seated) and their three sons aged 21 to 30.

“That one really shook me. As I reflected back, I realised that life can just be taken away within one or two minutes. I could have drowned.”

After that brush with death, Dato Tan made it a point to share his story whenever he can.

Seconds from being crushed

On March 3, 2021, Dato Tan was being driven home after a day at work. It had been raining heavily and they had waited for the rain to ease before hitting the road. As his car travelled past a flyover under construction, he heard his driver yell out to him.

“I was the last car to pass before the bridge fell.”

“By the time I turned around to look, I couldn’t see anything. There was no other car behind. The bridge had collapsed onto the road behind me.”

Dato Tan would later learn what happened.

A flyover for pedestrians was under construction along Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Expressway (SUKE). That fateful evening, an overloaded trailer crashed into the temporary steel scaffolding of a segment of the flyover. This caused a steel beam and the scaffolding to collapse onto both lanes of Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2). A van with five people travelling on the road at the time was crushed.

The collapsed flyover caused a road congestion that lasted hours. Altogether, 23 firemen, three fire engines and two emergency rescue service vehicles were dispatched to the scene.

Two women in the van died on the spot. The driver and two other passengers were severely injured. It took firefighters hours to extricate them, with the help of three cranes.     

By mere seconds, Dato Tan had missed being crushed.

“I was the last car to pass before the bridge fell. This was the second time God had protected me.”

Then came Covid

Two weeks after the narrow escape, Dato Tan contracted Covid.

“I am diabetic and have hypertension. He told me to go straight to the hospital.”

The Movement Control Order (MCO) had been lifted on March 15 and in-person training at the Royal Malaysia Police College had resumed. So, the college was abuzz with people and Dato Tan was “busy running around”.

Two days later, he started to feel unwell. “I had sore throat, joint pains but no fever.”

When he tested himself with the Antigen Rapid Test (ART) the next day, he was shocked to see two lines emerging on the test kit, indicating that he was Covid-positive.

A flurry of activity followed. Dato Tan had to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a clinic and quarantine himself in his office while he waited for the results.

Dato Tan sharing his near-death experience at an annual prayer service held for Christians in the Malaysian police force. He is the chairman of the Royal Malaysia Christian Group which organises these prayer services.

When the clinic confirmed that he had indeed come down with Covid, Dato Tan thought that he only needed to continue to self-quarantine at his office.

“I didn’t think it was that serious.”

“Don’t know what prompted me but I decided to call the doctor in charge of my area to talk to him. When I told him that I am diabetic and have hypertension, he told me to go straight to the hospital to be quarantined.”

By then, Dato Tan was five days into the infection and still feeling fine despite the sore throat and body aches.

“I was still breathing okay. My oxygen level was still acceptable.”

But early on the morning of Day 7, his condition worsened. The oxygen level in his blood dropped and he had to be admitted into the ICU.

Dato Tan with his son at the hospital just before he was admitted to the ICU.

“I could feel that it was a bit difficult to breathe but I didn’t think it was that serious.”

“You all need to get ready”

Three days into his ICU stay, the doctors called his wife Anna to ask for her permission to intubate him. His conditioned had further worsened.

“I saw a casket in my house and a hearse parked at the hospital ready to take me back.”

During intubation, an endotracheal tube (ETT) is inserted into the mouth or nose, past the voice box and the trachea. The tube keeps the airway open so oxygen can get to the lungs. The patient is usually sedated throughout the experience.

Because of Covid safety measures, Anna was not allowed to be with Dato Tan. So, she mobilised a prayer group for him. Friends from his church and Anna’s friends from other churches, even some in Australia, united in prayer for Dato Tan’s healing.

“I was in a coma for five days because of the intubation. But my brain was still working. During that time, I spoke to God three times. 

His wife Anna, seen here with Dato Tan, got their friends and loved ones, some as far as in Australia, to pray for his healing when he was in ICU.

“I told Him, ‘If it’s Your will for me to go back to You, forgive me of sins. I am ready to do back.’”

“The doctors said, ‘You all need to get ready.’ My wife could only cry and pray.”

While unconscious, he also saw a vision of himself dying.

“I saw a casket in my house and a hearse parked at the hospital ready to take me back.”

Meanwhile, on the third day of his coma, doctors told Anna that Dato Tan’s chances of survival were slim. The virus had attacked his lungs to the extent that he had become critically ill.

His pulse had plummeted to just 30-odd beats a minute. Normal pulse rates are at least 60 beats a minute. The oxygen level in his blood had also dropped to 40%. Anything below 90% is considered a clinical emergency because it can lead to hypoxia where vital organs become irreparably damaged.

“The doctors said, ‘You all need to get ready.’ My wife could only cry and pray.”

Brought back to life  

On the fifth day of his coma, at 3am in the morning, the wife of Dato Tan’s friend heard a voice in her sleep. When she woke up, she saw an image of Dato Tan in her bedroom. She knew she had to pray for him there and then.

At the same time, a pastor friend from a church in Kuala Lumpur was also awakened by the voice of God. He was given a specific Word from God: “Bring him out from the jaws of death.”

In that vision, Jesus was standing on the right side of Dato Tan’s hospital bed.

“It shocked him when he heard this because he knew I got Covid but he didn’t know how serious it was.

“He prayed for a good half hour till he felt peace. Then, he went back to sleep,” recounted Dato Tan who found out about this only much later.

Some two hours later, Dato Tan opened his eyes at the ICU. It was 5.30am.

“The nurse was shocked. She shouted, ‘Dato woke up! Dato woke up!’ They were not expecting me to wake up.”

When Dato Tan regained consciousness, he did not know if he was dead or alive. “I was still blurry.”

When the nurse asked to clean him up, he readily agreed, thinking to himself that it was better to be ministered to by the nurse than the undertaker. 

He then asked to go home.

“I told the nurse that everybody was waiting for me at home. The nurse told me, cannot, because I had not fully recovered.

“But I told her I had seen the casket in my house. I told her, “The hearse is ready to roll at 7am.’”

Dato Tan fell asleep after this exchange.

“I got to hear of God’s resurrection, just as how I was resurrected.”

When he video-called his wife later, he asked her: “Dear, is my grave ready?”

When she answered “no”, he said: “Why not? Where do you want to bury me?”

“I thought I was already dying,” he recalled to Salt&Light.

It was only after Dato Tan had fully recovered that he found out something else that confirmed that his healing was not a matter of chance or luck.

A sister-in-Christ he knew had the habit of gathering with others to pray every morning at six. On the morning that he awoke from his coma, she saw a vision. In that vision, Jesus was standing on the right side of Dato Tan’s hospital bed and it was 7 o’clock.

“I don’t know how it happened and why the timing. I only knew I was alive the next day.”

That day was April 2 – Good Friday. By Easter Sunday, he was well enough to sit up and listen to the Easter service on a handphone.

“I got to hear of God’s resurrection, just as how I was ‘resurrected’.”

He was discharged after being in the hospital for 21 days.

Five words from God

When Dato Tan returned home, he realised that he could not walk without becoming breathless. The oxygen level in his blood also began to fall.

A week passed before he went to the hospital for a check-up. A few tests and a CT scan later, the doctors found a blood clot on the right side of his lung which explained his condition. Blood thinners and steroids were prescribed.

“This Covid experience gave me the opportunity to share God’s grace, healing and miracles to all races.”

During his stay in the hospital, Dato Tan received a word from God each day.

“On Day 1, it was ‘Be still’, to listen to His voice, know that His presence is there and He would be there for me.

“On Day 2, it was ‘Be prepared’. The next day was ‘Be calm”, then ‘Be certain’. Two days later, it was ‘Be sufficient’.

“Then, the last sentence was ‘Do not be afraid to move on.’ I added it up – seven days in all.

“He gave me this word to prepare myself for something. I don’t know what yet but maybe after my retirement. He may be opening a new avenue, but I am still seeking Him about that.”

Meanwhile, he is taking every opportunity to share his story, whether it is to his colleagues or to those he meets.

‘This Covid experience gave me the opportunity to share God’s grace, healing and miracles to all races as it is an experience that happened in my life. All praise be unto God for this opportunity.” 


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.