Girl who lost an arm can swim, ride bike

Like any other five-year-old child, she is all bubbly and chirpy.

Sports, music and drawing - she loves them all. And every little thing, be it a cartoon, a drawing or even just food, excites little Lai Yok Shan and she breaks out into infectious laughter.

It helps that the girl, who turns five in July, is surrounded by people who love her.

In a telephone interview from their home in Selangor, her father tells The New Paper on Sunday in Mandarin: "Everywhere my Yok Shan goes, people dote on her and take special care of her."

Mr Lai, 27, a mechanic, adds: "It's also our blessing that little Yok Shan is a resilient child."

But for a while, the future had seemed bleak for Yok Shan after she was born two months premature at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang.

This paper covered the heartbreaking story in 2008, of how the child had been moved to an incubator and a drip was attached to her left hand after she was born on July 23, 2007. She had also been put on a ventilator.

About two weeks later, her condition had worsened and it was decided that she needed to be given antibiotics.

A houseman, taking instructions over the phone from a doctor, inserted a needle, but instead of injecting the medicine into a vein, he sent it into a muscle.

Over the next few days, the arm began to turn black. Part of it fell off after turning gangrenous and what remained had to be amputated two months later.

Mr Lai recalls: "It was one of the most terrible moments in our lives. We had looked forward to welcoming our little bundle of joy, but what a tragedy it nearly turned into."

He and his Thai wife, Madam Nut Tuemthong, 30, were so shaken by the event that it "took us a while to get past the barrier of having another child".

Says Mr Lai: "You can't shake off that fear... the trauma."

But here's the good news: Madam Tuemthong gave birth to a healthy baby boy on March 30.

Blessed

Blessed

"We're indeed blessed," he says.

"More importantly, Yok Shan loves her little brother so much and would always 'fight' to take over feeding him, and changing his diapers."

Mr Lai is also grateful that the children at the Eduwis Meru, the kindergarten that Yok Shan attends, have not ostracised his daughter.

He says: "My wife and I were worried at first that they'd avoid her, but thankfully, that has not happened."

In December 2007, the couple filed a RM2million (S$813,650) lawsuit against the Malaysian government, the hospital and two unnamed doctors - a houseman and a consultant.

The Malaysian authorities accepted responsibility and offered an ex-gratia payment but they turned it down at first.

In an interview with The New Paper then, Mr Lai said the government's offer of RM60,000 as compensation "only added salt to the wound".

In 2009, Mr Lai and his wife finally managed to reach a settlement with the government.

He declines to disclose the sum of settlement but says it included the compensation for a prosthesis, which would have to be replaced every few years.

Despite earlier reports, Yok Shan has yet to get her first prosthesis.

Mr Lai explains: "We wanted to get it from Thailand at first when she was four.

"But at that time, we were uncertain if she'd be comfortable with it.

"Now, we've decided to wait until she turns 12. By then, she'd likely be more ready, mentally and physically, to accept it."

Not always so easy

Not always so easy

Mr Lai also says that it wasn't always so easy for Yok Shan when she was younger.

He says: "She'd throw tantrums when she couldn't play with some of her toys.

"But now, she can swim, ride a bicycle, draw and even (play) the piano in her school. It's really a big and wonderful improvement."

Mr Lai believes that it's his blessing that his daughter is a cheerful child. "I don't think anyone can ask for anything more."

Like any proud parent, Mr Lai happily talks about Yok Shan's progress and accomplishments in school.

Such as coming in second in an individual event at her school sports day in April last year.

Or taking the fourth spot in the school singing competition four months later.

Mr Lai says: "All the children had to participate. We were filled with so much pride as we watched our little angel perform Where Is Thumbkin on the stage."

He adds: "We also realised one thing - that our girl is a fighter and she'd survive all the odds."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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