Hana pips others for 'scoop' book

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012
Hana Olds, 12, has written and self-published a book about surgeon Professor Swee Tan
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

WORTH CELEBRATING: Hana Olds, 12, has written and self-published a book about surgeon Professor Swee Tan.

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Petone schoolgirl Hana Olds gave herself a few weeks to write a book about the life of renowned plastic surgeon Swee Tan - a man working towards a cancer cure in between lifesaving surgery.

Although it took her longer than she thought, the 12-year-old is "happy" with the final result, "like really excited about it".

"I thought it would take about three weeks, the whole process, but it's actually been over a year."

Prof Tan is equally excited about the book, but shrugs off suggestions his story is remarkable.

Instead, he described Hana as a "remarkable human being", who is "going somewhere with the right ambition to do the greater good".

"This really is a story about Hana . . . I'm just wrapped into it. It's a story of her achieving, her journey - I think that is what is worth celebrating. I'm incredibly proud of her."

The seed to write If Persistence was a Person: The story of Professor Swee Tan was sown after Hana watched a documentary on his pioneering research into the treatment of strawberry birthmarks, which has implications for finding a cure for cancer.

Prof Tan, 52, had declined previous offers from authors to write his biography as he was "too young", but a pleading look from Hana in front of her classmates, and a few words from his wife, persuaded him to take the plunge.

"My wife Sanchia said, 'Swee, for goodness sake, it's just a children's book and you should agree to it'."

So he did, without regret.

The book canvases the father of three's life from humble beginnings in Malaysia to winning worldwide accolades.

The 36-page soft-cover book features photos from Prof Tan's childhood, wedding, family life and medical research moments.

"I love all of the book," Hana said. "But I guess I really like the first chapter - that's a really inspirational bit about how Swee had a dream and he how he achieved it . . . also the end of the book, and that's about his next dream and that's to cure cancer."

She interviewed Prof Tan on several occasions, catching him before he went into day-long surgeries at Hutt Hospital or during the weekends after ward rounds.

Then, after a long day at school, she would work on the book, which was launched last night. It's available online from Paper Plus, or from its Petone store for $19.99.

Proceeds go to the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, where Prof Tan and his team are seeking a cure for cancerous tumours.

A DREAM BEGINS

Excerpt from the book: "Imagine you are a child, born in a small Malaysian village, to a poor family. You are one of 14 children. Your mother never went to school and your father only attended school up until the age of 10. You love your mum and dad, but you don't want to be poor like them, with few opportunities. You want to become a doctor, but people around you say, 'You can't be a doctor. Look at your hands. They're rough and dirty.' This doesn't stop you. It just makes your dream even stronger."

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