Discovering a new purpose in life
// Story Benita Teo
// Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of RSAF
3SG Shane Lim, who returned from Australia to Singapore to do his NS, thinks he may have found a new calling in life as a life-saver after serving as a combat medic. Learn more about his experience in the second of PIONEER's "Back to Serve" series.
3rd Sergeant (3SG) Shane Lim never thought he'd one day pick up important life-saving skills.
But since becoming a combat medic in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), he's managed to put his skills to good use. Now, he's even thinking of becoming a paramedic!
A new calling to heal and save
3SG Lim, 20, moved to Australia when he was two, after his parents found jobs at a car parts company there. As a student, he enjoyed a wide range of sports and performing arts. Back then, he had also thought about a career as a pilot.
National Service (NS) called, and he returned to Singapore on his own in 2019, living with his uncle and aunt. He enlisted on 4 Apr that year and was subsequently selected to become a combat medic – something completely new to him.
"I came in with zero medical knowledge. But like my decision to come back and serve, I’m willing to try different things and further expand my knowledge," he explained.
"Now, I have learnt skills that can be applied outside (of the military). I feel a passion to deliver an outstanding positive experience for the patients I attend to."
3SG Lim is now keen to become a paramedic after he completes his NS in February. He is also thinking about returning after completing his health science degree at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, and making use of his skills to give back to his home in Singapore.
"My NS experience has been very enjoyable, enriching and meaningful. I believe that each of us can make a difference, whether we are NSFs (Full-time National Servicemen) or NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen). We are all equipped or born differently with personalities or strengths, and these traits can contribute to the greater good that we do."
Ready to fight the pandemic
3SG Lim currently works in the medical centre at Tengah Air Base, where he performs daily duties like treating injured personnel, giving vaccinations and carrying out checks on the centre's resuscitation equipment. The centre officially opened on 4 Nov 2020.
Working in a medical centre in the middle of a pandemic has been a challenging experience, but he is happy for the close-knit team he has in 705 Squadron.
"(Back then, to prepare for the worsening COVID-19 situation,) we were thinking about plans (for the medical centre) to be operationally ready for COVID-19. I was mentally and physically preparing myself to become operationally ready.
"It's not been easy as a combat medic during COVID-19 due to changes (in our work processes), such as the splitting of personnel into different teams. As a 24/7 medical centre, it's difficult to run the place with minimum manpower. But as a team we are able to pull through effectively, because we share a strong (sense of) discipline."
He recalled an incident late last year, when he was called on to attend to an injured serviceman who had fallen at work and was bleeding from the forehead.
"We responded quickly and assisted the medical officer in the treatment process before he was sent to the hospital. We were worried about him, but at the same time relieved that we managed to stabilise him," he recounted.
"There's a saying that 'time is of the essence'. That's why we medics have to keep up our training to handle situations like this, and also to keep up our standards on having to seek and save lives."
New friends, new skills
When 3SG Lim first came back to Singapore in 2019, he faced a language barrier. People would often start conversations with him in Mandarin, not knowing that he couldn't speak it well.
"I have a colleague who can only understand a bit of English, and mostly speaks Mandarin. At first, I would need another colleague to help translate my intentions to him. But in the year I've been here, I've picked up a bit of Mandarin thanks to my colleagues. They've helped me overcome my language barrier," he explained.
"Everyone is willing to help and we're all friendly with each other. And I think that's what makes a great team – that everyone helps each other out in their own way."