Read This Singaporean’s Ordeal of Meeting His Newborn During COVID-19

Read This Singaporean’s Ordeal of Meeting His Newborn During COVID-19

An unforgettable story of a father's love in the time of COVID-19.

flight steward meeting newborn

Saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us much inconvenience is perhaps the biggest understatement. With over 29 million confirmed cases in 215 countries, including around 950,000 deaths, according to the latest figures by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as of 18 Sep 2020, the pandemic has disrupted our lives by affecting our jobs and relationships. With travel still at a standstill and international borders reopening cautiously, we can all agree that now is not the best time to travel. But what if you have to absolutely fly out of town to witness a life-changing moment? Just ask Kane Ong, a Singaporean dad-to-be meeting his newborn.

Also read: Singapore, Thailand to Speed Up Green Lane Talks

Turbulence ahead

flight steward meeting newborn

The 39-year-old first met his wife Nattida, 34 around the end of 2012, when they were both on the same flight to London. After four years of dating and getting to know each other better, the couple has since been happily married for four years – with more good news to come!

The two were expecting their first child, Kleiner, in September this year. But there was a problem: Nattida, who is Thai, was based in Chiang Mai then before flights became grounded and borders slammed shut with the spread of COVID-19. This presented a great obstacle to Kane, who was in Singapore and was desperate to meet his wife and newborn son.

Plenty of hoops to jump through

flight steward meeting newborn

Anyone who has received news that they are going to be a parent will be filled with joy and excitement. For Kane, it was happiness and worry all rolled into one, knowing that his wife and newborn were 2,500 kilometres away in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

He wasted no time in booking the earliest flight to Chiang Mai. But as there were no direct flights from Singapore, he had to transit at Bangkok first instead. Kane also had to file an application with the Thai Embassy for special approval to fly to Thailand.

With authorities understandably extra vigilant and on edge during this period, the application process proved to be a challenge for him. “Getting the paperwork filed was the biggest issue,” said Kane. “For a start, the Thai Embassy website interface was not user-friendly. Information regarding the application process was also always changing, such as which application forms to use, available flights for charter, and whether the list of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) hotels was the most updated or not.”

Image credit: Royal Thai Embassy, Singapore

Frustration also reached news levels when he was told by embassy staff that the documents he had submitted could not be processed. “They claimed that I had produced incorrect documents, when information was not properly disseminated and readily available,” he explained. Kane also got wind of news that some travellers had to be rejected three days before their flights due to the COVID-19 swab test application. All these factors, along with almost three months of waiting for responses from relevant authorities, made the application process a highly anxious one for Kane.

Thankfully, all that trouble was worth it as his VISA application eventually went through, thanks to the embassy supervisor displaying empathy towards a parent-to-be and helping to expedite the application process. Kane also had to do four sets of swab tests – two in Singapore and two in Thailand. 

“After doing all the tests, I can confidently compliment the quality of Singapore’s medical equipment; significantly superior swab stick, better flexibility and lesser discomfort to the users,” shared Kane. “From the outside, the procedure may look rather intimidating, but the actual sensation can be described as having your nose blocked by a light water spray.”

A flight experience unlike any other

We are all used to the commonplace sight of the airport buzzing with travellers and activity. So naturally, Kane was taken aback by the quiet and deserted airport which greeted him on the day of his departure. 

“It was definitely a whole new experience for me, with the entire airport and its services all to myself! There were also no queues at the customs and duty-free shops, so it felt as though all the airport facilities were personalised for me,” said Kane.

Despite the lack of travellers, the airport was already open for essential international travel. Hence, Kane had to don personal protective equipment at all times and adhere strictly to individual hygiene practices. The precautionary measures even continued upon boarding his flight, where he had to exchange his mask for a N95 one on an almost empty plane. “It was definitely a strange experience for me,” Kane added.

Mixed feelings

This trip was also a strange one emotionally for Kane. On one hand, he was thrilled at the thought of finally reuniting with his wife, whom he had not seen for almost six months, and meeting his newborn. On the other hand, there was a mandatory 14-day quarantine period awaiting him in Thailand, which he was not looking forward to.

Besides the inconvenience, Kane’s trip also proved to be a hefty one. On top of his flight ticket to Bangkok and S$186 for his COVID-19 test swab in Singapore, Kane also had to fork out S$1,500 for his ASQ period in Bangkok and S$800 for COVID-related insurance for coverage in Thailand.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Despite his ordeal, it proved to be all worth it as Kane managed to get to his wife in time and herald the birth of Baby Kleiner on 30 August 2020. Both mother and child are healthy, with Baby Kleiner even opening his eyes within one hour of being born! Kane revealed that it was this particular moment of meeting his son that motivated him throughout the journey and kept him going. Nattida’s unrelenting support and encouragement also made the difference in helping him tide through quarantine.

“She was very concerned about my well-being during quarantine, both physically and mentally,” said Kane. “She was constantly reminding me to take my vitamins and keep myself well hydrated throughout the stay.” To liven his spirits, Nattida even ordered some of his favourite drinks and snacks to his hotel.

As with the darkest of moments, care and support from your loved ones is always the most crucial. For this parent meeting his newborn, staying positive was the key. “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade,” he quipped. “Love life and never be bound by international boundaries. Remember that experiences are meant to make you stronger and not for you to brood over or boast.”

Watch Kane’s unforgettable journey meeting his newborn documented in its entirety on his YouTube channel (Kleiner Ong).

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About Author

Shawn Tan
Shawn Tan

Shawn believes that travel is a state of mind. Whether it is winding through the bustling medinas of Marrakech or the morning ritual of brewing coffee, travelling to him is all about being lost in the moment.