Kiss 92 DJ Divian Nair's worst health scare a wake-up call to reset priorities
Local radio personality Divian Nair is getting back on his feet after experiencing the worst health scare of his life earlier this month due to a hemiplegic migraine attack.
Many symptoms of this rare type of migraine mimic those common to stroke, such as muscle weakness that causes a temporary paralysis on one side of the body, as well as ataxia (abnormal, uncoordinated movements) and aphasia (an inability to comprehend or formulate language) which can last for days or weeks.
On the evening of April 4, the Kiss92 FM DJ was taken by ambulance to Singapore General Hospital when the left side of his face, where he was feeling numbness, began to droop. He assumed he was having a stroke.
The 35-year-old had woken up from a 15-minute nap feeling giddy, nauseous and weak. He was slurring his speech and his balance was off.
By the time the paramedics arrived, he was more confused and disorientated - to the point where he could not give his identity card number.
After two CT scans ruled out a stroke and he was placed in the high-dependency ward, he experienced his worst migraine attack ever - one that lasted 10 hours, was "10 upon 10 on the pain scale" and caused him to vomit twice.
He tells The Straits Times: "I grew up with migraines and never took anything more than Panadol for it. I've had migraine with aura for the past three years, which occurs every three months, but it wasn't something I saw a doctor for or paid attention to. I just waited for it to go away."
Migraine with aura is a recurring headache that strikes after or at the same time as sensory disturbances, which can include flashes of light, blind spots, zigzag lines and other vision changes.
He was discharged after three days and given 10 days of medical leave as well as strong painkillers.
During this time, Nair - who had never been hospitalised prior or "down for so many days before" - was still slurring and struggling to get his thoughts across.
He says: "There were five days when I couldn't speak properly. Up until today, I couldn't say the word 'strange'. I was quite worried (the effects) might be permanent. But the doctors explained that when your brain takes such a big hit, it takes a while for it to readjust and resettle how it routes information."
Physically, he was experiencing "low-battery life". He could not walk his dog for the whole circuit like he used to and got tired much faster. He also did not have the strength to open a water bottle.
But he is improving gradually and is now at 90 per cent. He and his social media marketer wife Rachel Chia, 29, who is six months pregnant with their first child, are now on a 10-day holiday in Bangkok.
The couple had booked the trip a month ago and are taking things slow there.
Nair expects to return to his weekday morning show, Wake Up And Go With Div & Friends, on April 25 with a new lease of life.
After all, when the doctors told him that hemiplegic migraine - most likely caused by severe stress and fatigue in his case - should not happen to someone his age, it was a wake-up call.
"Large issues at work", which he declined to elaborate on, have caused him major anxiety for the last few months.
And after a "tumultuous" week, during which he slept only three hours a day, his body told him to stop.
He says: "I also run a video production company and there are multiple shoots, engagements and projects happening. (Minister for Health) Ong Ye Kung also came to do our show. My schedule left me overstretched and it was really the perfect storm.
"I had not been very responsible with the way I'd been managing my time. I constantly prioritised fixing issues and problems, and getting something done over rest."
After this episode, he is determined to "re-lay the train tracks because I know that when I start (on something), I won't be looking at where or how fast I'm going".
He says: "I have to actively recalibrate my priorities, so that when I turn on the machine again, at least I know that this is planned to be sustainable. It wasn't before, it was 'try to do as much as I can with however much time I have'."
He is also looking forward to taking the Kiss92 FM morning show to new heights on his own - after his on-air partner, local actress Jo Tan, left in early March.
Instead of relying on the banter among a bevy of brand-name DJs, it has been reangled to a community-based, family-focused programme featuring a variety of voices from guests, friends and even kids.
And the new format appears to be paying off.
Nair, who is happy to have more leeway and autonomy, says: "We achieved quite a lot of success so far. From my experience on radio for 12 years, in that one month, we saw the most number of new and dormant listeners contribute and participate."
He adds: "I don't think of myself as a celebrity. That's not my game. I'm just a conduit for the voices. My job is only to make sure Singaporeans are talking to other Singaporeans on the show."