Incident changed son for the better

Incident changed son for the better
Mr Sim Tharn Chun with his wife, Mrs Cathryn Sim who has been his pillar of strength, accompanying him on evening walks and being his ears.
PHOTO: The New Paper

As one of the 360 people affected by the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria outbreak which killed two people, you would expect Mr Sim Tharn Chun and his family to be more subdued.

Especially after the 54-year-old became partially deaf and had to leave his job as Singapore and Philippines country manager for a division of industry giant Honeywell.

With Chinese New Year (CNY) tomorrow, they will be visiting relatives as they feel they have much to be thankful for.

But Mr Sim is not going to eat yusheng. He now avoids raw food.

In Nov 15, 2015, Mr Sim ate raw fish porridge at the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre. It caused a high fever.

Mr Sim was then taken to the intensive care unit at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

He slipped in and out of consciousness and when he woke up 12 days later, he realised he could not hear.

He was deaf in his right ear and lost 90 per cent of his hearing in his left.

The Ministry of Health told The New Paper the number of GBS cases notified to them between January to December last year was less than five a week, compared to the nine cases a week from Jan 1 to June 20, 2015.

Sale of ready-to-eat raw freshwater fish have been banned from food outlets except restaurants by the National Environment Agency (NEA) since Dec 5 that year.

In a joint reply to TNP, the NEA and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said consumers should ensure the packaging is intact when buying pre-packed yusheng.

Consumers should wash hands before and after handling food, keep it chilled before serving, use clean utensils and consume it within two hours after mixing to be safe.

Also read: Tossing for luck: A guide to safe, mouthwatering yusheng creations

Mr Sim had surgery on Jan 1, last year, to place cochlear implants in both ears but they have not improved his hearing.

He said: "I feel terrible. It is really challenging to communicate now."

But the incident changed his son, Micah, 17, for the better.

Micah cut down on his three- to four-hour daily gaming sessions and focused on his studies.

He had scored 27 points for his L1R5 grades in his preliminary exams and got 11 for O levels.

Replying to TNP's written questions, Mr Sim said: "I'm elated not just about his outstanding results but more so about his drive."

Micah is working as a guest relations executive at a hotel while waiting for polytechnic application results.

His mother, Mrs Cathryn Sim, 45, said it reduces the burden on the family's finances, which are expected to run out in four years.

She quit her job last month to help her husband with rehabilitation, and said they are relying on savings and the insurance pay-out to get by.

Several organisations have approached Mr Sim to help, including SG Enable, which helps disabled people find work.

Mrs Sim is considering starting a marriage training and parenting consultancy with her husband.

They have two other children - Charis, 19, a Temasek Polytechnic student; and Charity, who is in Secondary 3.

They help out at home, including cooking for their father.

Mr Sim said: "I feel blessed to have them as my children. They show empathy, especially when I'm in a foul mood."

leeganjp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 27, 2017.
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