S'pore family undergoing treatment in Thai hospital get help from locals

PHOTO: Shin Min

For more than 24 hours, Madam Betty Ong was deprived of sleep and clean clothes.

Trapped in the hospital, she was worried sick over the well-being of her two siblings who were more seriously injured in the blasts at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok on Monday.

Her brother Wesley pulled through five hours of surgery where doctors removed two pieces of shrapnel from his broken right leg, only for them to find another piece lodged in his colon, which required yet another major operation.

Her sister Jane also needed surgery to remove shrapnel stuck in her left temple.

Her sister-in-law suffered burns.

Madam Ong herself needed six stitches to the back of her left thigh.

"I didn't feel pain or anything - until the anxiety wore off," she said.

In the aftermath of what Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha described as Thailand's "worst ever attack", the past three days have been harrowing for the retiree.

But this was tempered by the assistance rendered to the Ongs by the Thais, who helped them through many turns in their ordeal.

The New Paper reported on Tuesday that Madam Ong, 70, her sister, 59, her brother, 53, and his wife Jennifer, 41, were at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok when a bomb exploded.

The blast killed at least 20 people and injured more than 100.

Passers-by helped Madam Ong and her family members to a nearby hospital, before they were finally transferred to Hua Chiew Hospital.


Already traumatised by the horror of the blast, the chaos and mess of the next hours made things even more frustrating for Madam Ong.

When she spoke to TNP over the phone yesterday morning, she said she was feeling unstable.

"Imagine not sleeping for 48 hours and not getting much help," she lamented.

"The hotel we are staying at is so far away and Bangkok is so congested. Travel is an inconvenience, so we stay put in the hospital, in our bloodstained clothes."

The need for more surgery on her brother only made her experience more difficult.

"I do not understand," said Madam Ong.

"I thought they were supposed to do a total body scan so they could find the shrapnel in whichever part of the body and remove it.

"It is a life-threatening operation, that's why I am unstable."

But over the course of the day, with the help of the hospital staff, the Singapore Embassy and the Thai government, things started improving for the Ongs.

Mr Ong's surgery was complicated because the piece of shrapnel had torn through the colon.

Madam Ong said the surgeon needed to remove his appendix, sew up the wounds and ensure that there were no other pieces of shrapnel in his intestines.

"The surgeon in Hua Chiew (hospital) was good," she said.

"We thought language would be a barrier but this surgeon could explain to us very clearly how they were going to proceed with the operation because it is considered highly dangerous."

Both her brother's and sister's operations yesterday were successful, Madam Ong said, and they would need six to seven days to recuperate before heading home.


The Ongs were also upgraded to a better ward, given free telephone calls, and, with the help of a relative who flew in from Singapore, managed to retrieve their luggage from their hotel and change into fresh clothes.

A Thai friend they stayed with while they were in Kao Yai in the north-east also sent an English-speaking friend to help them, Madam Ong said.

A representative from the Singapore Embassy stayed at the hospital with them to help with any problems.

"I was lucky because I was able to reach my MP, Mr David Ong, to ask him to help push the embassy to get things moving fast," she added.

Thai PM Prayuth also paid the Ongs a visit on Tuesday and gave them 5,000 baht (S$297) each to tide them over.

Madam Ong said the government offered 100,000 Baht as compensation for their medical expenses.

She was worried the money would not be enough to cover both her siblings' operations but she said a representative reassured her the bill would be taken care of.

Malaysian news agency Bernama reported that the families of those killed in the blast will be receiving 400,000 baht.

"The Thais have been very helpful," said Madam Ong.

"Things are more stable now.

"We are still trying to stay strong."

This article was first published on August 20, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.