Lee Wei Ling Diagnosed With Brain Disorder Called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

They say, “health is wealth”, and the saying rings true indeed, because you can’t enjoy a good life if you’re not in good health.

For Dr Lee Wei Ling – daughter of Lee Kuan Yew – however, she recounted that she has “has it good for too long”, as she comes to terms with her recent diagnosis.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy — an uncommon brain disorder that causes severe body movement problems and behavioural changes

She announced this on Facebook last night (8 Aug), as she looked back at the fulfilling life she had as a Raffles Institution (RI) student, a neurologist, and the daughter of Singapore’s first Prime Minister.


Dr Lee also described the disorder as a nightmare she wishes to wake up from. We summarise her post for you below.

Lee Wei Ling diagnosed with uncommon brain disorder

First off, what is progressive supranuclear palsy?

According to Dr Lee, it is a “rather nasty” brain disease that starts with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s such as:

  • Slowing down of physical movements
  • Impairment of fast eye movements and balance

This is then followed by:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Choking
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

Dr Lee denotes “death” as a fate for “those who are fortunate”, as further progression of the disease will lead to dementia and drastic changes in behaviour.

Currently, there is no cure for the disorder, according to Mayo Clinic.

Wishes this was a nightmare she’ll wake up from

Once she learnt of her diagnosis, the first reaction that came to Dr Lee’s mind was “忍”, which means to endure in Chinese.

She has been familiar with the word since she learnt Chinese in school, as she came to recognise that life is fraught with “unpleasant, unavoidable” situations.

It would be nice if this entire episode turns out to be a nightmare and that I will wake up. But it is getting increasingly real and inescapable every day.

Her movements are slow and hesitant, and she now has difficulty getting up from her futon.

Thinks she’s had it good for too long

She did not think to ask “Why me?”, because she said the obvious answer was “Why not?”

I have had it good for too long.

She recounts her past:

  • Born into a middle class family with sensible parents
  • Father was Prime Minister of Singapore
  • Stayed in a huge bungalow on Istana grounds

Despite her family’s privilege, she said her father did not want them growing up with the wrong idea of importance and entitlement. That was why they lived in their old pre-war home at Oxley Road.


She recalled playing with their butlet’s children and watched television together as equals. The best part was that they could maintain their relationship as childhood friends even after decades had passed.

Looks back at her education & career choices

Sharing that she had enjoyed schooling life, she had represented RI in athletics and swimming.

She pursued medicine after earning a President’s scholarship, where she successfully topped her cohort.

Dr Lee revealed that she had wanted to do veterinary medicine, but her parents had discouraged her.

She ended up taking paediatrics instead as it was similar to veterinrary in the sense that patients can’t tell their problems clearly and concisely.

After taking a scholarship from the Ministry of Health, she:

  • Went to train at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States
  • Returned and served at Tan Tock Seng Hospital as a paediatric neurologist
  • Delved into paediatric epilepsy — the only treatable neurological condition at that time
  • Given another Ministry of Health scholarship
  • Spent 1 year at Toronto Hospital in Canada to treat sick children
  • Spent a few months at Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic

She ended the post by saying that she enjoyed her years as a neurologist and epileptologist.

Hope treatment will slow down disease’s progression

As Dr Lee recounts her past in her post, perhaps she is also taking the time to immortalise unforgettable moments from both her childhood and adult life, in her own words.

It’s truly scary to know that you’re diagnosed with a disease that will render you helpless, and that there is no cure. There is, however, treatment focused on managing the symptoms.

Although Dr Lee did not mention if she will be seeking treatment, we do hope that she will, so that she can better cope with the signs.

In the meantime, take care and stay strong, Dr Lee.

Featured image adapted from Sammyboy.com.