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My former colleagues at DJE (PR firm Daniel J Edelman) approached me to work part-time with them on some projects. On a trip with them to Singapore in January 1989, I received an early morning phone call from my husband: Dad had had a heart attack and was in hospital.

I hastily packed my bags, left a note for my boss and rushed to Changi to catch my flight home. My friend who picked me up at Subang airport said she barely recognised me because I looked so haunted. I felt so guilty for being away when it happened.

Arriving at the KL General Hospital, Mum took me to see Dad. I couldn’t help but give a gasp of shock at the sight that greeted me. Unused to ever seeing him weak and helpless, I was not prepared to see him lying in bed hooked up to tubes and machines, dependent on the expertise of his doctors. He was only 63 at the time but fairly heavy, and a heart operation, where the heart needs to be stopped while it is being fixed and then restarted, is always a risk.

His surgeon, however, was the best we had in Malaysia. Mr Yahya Awang, a tall, distinguished man who also happened to be Hussein Onn’s son-in-law, put together a top-notch team of Malaysian cardio-thoracic surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses.

He took care to brief us all on the procedure and when I asked what was the backup plan if anything happened to him before the operation, he smiled gently and said he would be sleeping in the hospital so that he would be rested and ready bright and early before he picked up his scalpel.

Dad too knew about the risks of such a major operation, which had to be done within a week after his attack. On the day before surgery, I happened to be sitting by his bed. He had been awake and strong enough to write a letter that he handed to me. I looked at it and then back at him, puzzled.

‘If anything should happen to me, give this to Anwar...

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