Joyce-lynn Chua turned 18 on April 17. A day later, she was admitted for three days into  Alexandra Hospital.

Like many others whose birthdays fall in the Covid-19 circuit breaker period, she didn’t get to celebrate the milestone in the company of her close friends. But she had her fair share of surprises – both pleasant and painful ones.

An A&E Birthday

Joyce-lynn receiving a Starbucks delivery
Photo by: Joyce-lynn Chua

On her birthday, Joyce-lynn received 8 food deliveries from a group of friends. 

It started at 11am when she received her breakfast from Two Men Bagel House. About an hour later, an acai order arrived. 

She began suspecting that food would keep coming every hour. She was right. 

Throughout the day, Starbucks beverages, a Subway sandwich, another acai bowl and other items were delivered to her doorstep. 

“I honestly think it was like three days worth of food but because if I kept them any longer, they would spoil so I ate them all in one day,” she recalls.

That night, she ate one of the acai bowls she had kept in her freezer. She developed a stomach ache but assumed it was just lactose intolerance. She had a vanilla frappuccino that afternoon after all. 

The next morning, the pain got worse and she began vomiting, resulting in a trip to the family clinic.

“[The doctor] asked what colour my puke was. I said it was pink and he really got a shock because he thought it was blood. But it was just acai and the funniest thing was having to explain to the doctors what acai is. They kept thinking it [was] alcohol!”

She was given painkillers and was diagnosed with stomach flu, which she felt doubtful about and returned home. The pain eventually worsened and she would throw up everything that she ate or drank. It even got to the point where she couldn’t stand up anymore. 

Her mother took her to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) at the National University Hospital (NUH) where she was transferred to Alexandra Hospital. As she had just turned 18, she was admitted to the adults A&E, where patients are not allowed to be accompanied due to the Covid-19 situation. 

“My mum had to leave me, I was alone and no one could visit me,” she says.

“They [The medical staff] put me on an IV drip and did a chest x-ray for me because they thought I had Covid but luckily I didn’t do the swab. They did a lot of tests, like blood tests,” she recounts.

Joyce-lynn during her stay in the A&E
Photo by: Joyce-lynn Chua

She was diagnosed with a stomach infection and put under observation for three days due to possible underlying conditions and severe dehydration caused by excessive vomiting. With an IV drip, she eventually recovered.

Now, Joyce-lynn is still unsure what caused the stomach infection. “Maybe it was an accumulation of things, lactose intolerance plus bad acai plus all the food that I had… It was eventful,” she laughs.

Birthday Wish – Grow Her Vein Size

Grace Wiggins turned 19 on April 23. She visited a blood donation drive on her birthday but it was closed. The next day, she went again only to be turned away because her veins were “too small”.

What inspired her to donate blood was a friend who donates frequently and she learnt that it’s “much healthier to donate blood because your bone marrow produces fresh red blood cells”.

On April 24, she visited the blood donation drive with her parents and brother where all four of them intended to donate blood. Eventually, her brother waited outside because he had cold feet and her parents weren’t eligible as they had travelled to a country with dengue. 

“I filled out a form first, then they tested my blood. After an hour, I got all the way through until I sat in the chair [where they drew blood] and as I was sitting in the chair, the lady looked at my arm and went ‘oh we actually can’t draw your blood, it’s too small’,” she recalls. 

“She then said ‘let me try something’.”

The nurse proceeded to squeeze her arm and tie something around it to get the blood flowing before confirming that Grace’s veins were indeed too small. The size of veins vary from person to person but with small veins, the donors “could faint more easily”, the nurse told her, adding that if she were to pass out before the blood bag was completely filled, her blood would have to be discarded. 

She was then told to come back a year later, and practise arm exercises such as squeezing stress balls or holding her arm up beside her and holding it there “till it burns”.

“Honestly, I’m really scared of blood and needles but within the last few years, I’ve been giving blood a lot [for blood tests] but not donating. I had to test my blood for anaemia and thalassemia so it’s kind of ironic in a way.” She explains that because she had a previous case of anaemia, she had to take many blood tests to monitor her iron count.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, less people are donating blood. She decided that because it’s her birthday, it would be nice to have that significance of donating blood for the first time on “such a special day”.

Her goal next year? To have veins big enough for her to donate blood, invite friends to join her, have her parents eligible, and well, “make [her] brother promise to donate blood even though he’s scared”.

Virtual Celebration in Animal Crossing

Seth Hoo turned 20 on April 6. He took his celebration plans online when his friends threw him a virtual birthday party celebration on Nintendo game Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing has become increasingly popular ever since the circuit breaker started. With more time on people’s hands, players turn to the game to plant trees, catch animals and build an island where customisation of almost every object is possible. 

For his birthday, his friends had invited him to visit one of their islands to carry out some trades.

Seth’s friends surprising him as he arrives at one of their islands
Photo by: Seth Hoo

“I thought it was just going to be normal but when I was flying over, I saw the view and they had birthday signs and birthday balloons everywhere,” he recalls how surprised he was.

Despite not having “much to do” in the virtual party, it brought him joy and they took a lot of photos. His friends also gave him “gifts that are very expensive in the game”.

As someone who plays the game everyday, what he likes about Animal Crossing is the creativity that it allows. 

“[It] has a wide range of furniture which we use for anything and everything depends on how creative you are. You can even paint signs and stuff… It’s also really cute!”

On his birthday, he also received a surprise birthday cake delivery from another group of friends and had a nice dinner celebration at home with his family.

“Although I really wished I could’ve [gone] out and spent time with my friends and family for my birthday, I am still really appreciative that my friends did that for me! It really made me feel very loved!”