“You won’t recover, just give up,” a sinister voice whispered to a Covid-19 patient in ICU
by Janice Tai // December 10, 2021, 7:48 pm
Lai was immediately sent to hospital in an ambulance when the oxygen level in his blood dropped to 86%. It was while he was recovering in the ICU that two spiritual attacks happened. All photos courtesy of Lai Kok Choo.
It was during a weekend in late September this year when Lai Kok Choo, 61, began to feel some slight discomfort. His throat was scratchy and he was also nursing a headache and cough.
When he went to see the doctor on a Monday, his PCR test for Covid-19 turned up positive.
He had no idea where he may have contracted it. Further tests in his household revealed that his domestic helper had also caught it.
At that time, Singapore had just started making home recovery the default Covid-19 care arrangement. The family quickly sent his 87-year-old mother, who was living with them, to his sibling’s house while they hunkered down to rest and fight the disease on their own at home.
“I wasn’t too concerned then as we were bombarded with statistics that about 98.8% of people with Covid-19 will recover with no symptoms or mild symptoms. I assumed I would be part of that group and just hoped it would go away,” said Kok Choo, who is retired.
Following God’s prompting
Later that week, he remembered that his niece’s husband is a doctor who treats Covid-19 patients and somehow decided to call him.
“I don’t usually do things like that but I think it was God’s intervention to prompt me to call him,” said Kok Choo, who worships at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.
The first thing that his niece’s husband instructed him to do was to take out his oximeter and measure the oxygen level in his blood.
The reading registered as 86%, considered a clinical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
His niece’s husband immediately called for an ambulance to take him to hospital. Within minutes, medical staff who were all geared up in full body Personal Protective Equipment appeared at his door to take him away to Sengkang General Hospital.
Initially, he was placed in a five-patient ward but was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for closer monitoring the next day.
As he laid on the hospital bed with an oxygen mask fitted on his face to help him breathe, it dawned upon him that he was now not only part of the 0.8 per cent of people infected with Covid-19 who needed oxygen supplementation, he was also part of the 0.2% of people who needed to be placed in the ICU.
There was a very real possibility that he may end up in the 0.2% of infected patients who die of the disease.
“Many people go ICU, put oxygen tube for them, they also die,” a female doctor remarked to him when she saw him in the ICU.
What if I were to die?
Kok Choo is not afraid of dying.
“Death puts an end to suffering and earthly work and I look forward to life in heaven, but I know my loved ones would not be ready for that. I was worried that my wife’s faith would be destroyed if I pass on,” he said.
Machines whirred in the background as he shifted uncomfortably in the diapers he had to wear as he was not allowed to leave the bed.
He had been diligent about following the doctor’s instructions of lying face down in a prone position to improve his breathing and eating his food regularly to keep his energy levels up so as to expedite recovery.
Yet as he closed his eyes and rested in the evening, a voice within him began speaking to him.
“Hey, this whole thing is a scam. You won’t recover by doing all this. Just give up and pull the oxygen tube out,” the voice told him.
“I began to be aware of the lies being told to me and I stopped believing them.”
Lai was conscious, but he felt as if he had lost control of himself.
“It was a very scary experience. It was like someone had taken over me and the voice kept repeating itself,” said Kok Choo, who could not help but begin believing what the voice told him. In a panicked state, he almost obeyed it and wanted to pull out his oxygen tube.
“It kept playing in my mind. Not knowing what’s happening, I could not do anything. I could not even pray or rebuke it,” he added.
He was not aware of how long that lasted but, after a while, God’s peace calmed him down and he regained control of his mind.
“I began to be aware of the lies being told to me and I stopped believing them. It was an intense spiritual attack and I thank God for protecting me. It was definitely not my own fearful thoughts as I was very positive about the treatment and recovery,” he said.
During that time, he also had strong prayer support from his family, church and cell group friends, as well as his ministry partners in Myanmar.
Things started looking up from then on.
After one day, he was moved out of the ICU. He was given anti-viral and anti-inflammation injections for 10 days.
His oxygen levels fluctuated but, when his oxygen level reached 92 to 95%, the doctor halved his oxygen supplementation. Shortly after, his oxygen tube was completely removed.
To show their support, his family members went to a neighbouring HDB carpark to wave at him. From his ward bed, he waved back cheerily as his spirits lifted. He also drew comfort and strength from God by meditating on Psalm 23.
Yet during the night, a second spiritual attack took place.
“The voice started telling me the same thing again – that it was all a scam, that I should not believe that all the medical efforts would be able to save my life and that I should give up,” he recalled.
“I was weak and vulnerable and I could not do anything. It was so real. It was not a dream but I was brought into a different dimension,” he added.
God’s presence came upon him once again and, as he calmed down, the voice left.
These two episodes of spiritual attacks reminded Kok Choo of the roaring lion that 1 Peter 5:8 writes about which prowls about seeking whom it may devour.
The reality of spiritual warfare
Kok Choo, who is a cell group leader and used to serve on his church’s missions committee, told Salt&Light: “Spiritual warfare is real and the devil is always ready to find opportunities to attack. Here we have a possibility of life or death and he knows that if anything were to happen to me, it would have great impact on the faith of those around me.
“This experience reaffirmed what I know about God’s goodness and sovereignty. I lost control but I know He was, and is, in full control. I also appreciate anew His power in creating us, even in the basic function of breathing which we take for granted.”
On October 13, he was discharged after being hospitalised for 12 days.
This close shave with death was not his first.
In 1996, he was a young father juggling the demands of providing for his family and ageing parents. His job in a multi-national corporation (MNC) was stressful and required frequent travel.
The pressure was intense and he could see no way out other than giving up his life.
So, he drafted a suicide note. But his wife caught him in the middle of the act. She counselled him and he regained perspective. He tendered his resignation the next day but, after negotiations, he agreed to be transferred to another department instead.
“God saved my life by sending my wife to me at that moment. Since then, I have desired to know Him more and more,” said Kok Choo, who came to faith while doing his postgraduate studies in the UK and through his then-girlfriend, now his wife.
“It was a long journey of faith as I was a ‘rational’ person and found it difficult to believe. I often challenged God but I began to find my answers and understand more about God’s love when I became a father myself. I aim to be a witness for Him everywhere I was, including in the workplace,” he said.
Quitting a high-paying job
Lai rose up the ranks and occupied management positions at the MNC. By the age of 53, he was well remunerated and at the peak of his career.
Then he made a decision that seemed absurd and unthinkable to many people around him.
At the peak of his career, he quit his job to spend more time with his family and do God’s work.
“I did my finances and decided that enough is enough. There was no point accumulating more but having no time for my family and God’s kingdom,” said Kok Choo, who has three children.
He convinced his wife, who was then working in finance, to do likewise. She also left her job and both of them retired together in 2014.
Doing so allowed him to travel and spend time with his youngest daughter who was studying overseas then.
Walking the talk
An elder of his church had also earlier invited him to be part of the church missions committee.
“I am too busy, maybe I can do it after retirement,” Kok Choo had replied.
The elder remembered what he said, took him at his word and immediately extended the invitation to him again upon his retirement.
Kok Choo accepted the role and, with the rest in the committee, began overseeing the mission activities of the church, including administrative responsibilities and caring for the church missionaries by travelling to visit them.
Over the years, he has visited and cared for missionaries in Mongolia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Beyond his own church, Kok Choo is also involved in missions in Myanmar. He is the treasurer to a non-profit organisation under Operation Mobilisation (OM) which gives out loans for the locals to start small businesses for life- and faith transformation. Lai also financially supports a missionary in Myanmar and has built a boarding school for young people who need accommodation nearer their school.
In Singapore, he derives much joy and purpose in being an officer to the young students in the Boys’ Brigade in Pioneer Primary School.
“I enjoy teaching young people and am seeking new opportunities to see if I can put my time and expertise to better use by coaching them in, say, accounts or financial planning,” said Kok Choo, who holds an MBA.
Having surrendered a well-remunerated and high-flying job at the height of his career in order to reprioritise his life seven years ago, his recent brush with Covid-19 and death reminded him again the importance of having clarity in what truly matters in life.
“It is important to know contentment. I came from a poor family and God has blessed me so much so that I can bless others,” he told Salt&Light.
“We need to know the urgency of the times and use what we have to share Christ and His love with others.”
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