Brain tumour op leaves man in coma

SINGAPORE - Mr Garry Douglas Tan went in for surgery to remove a benign tumour from his brain. That was on June 15, 2010.

Two years on, the Auckland University graduate still hasn't made it out of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

Mr Tan, now 35, went into a coma 11 days after his operation and is now in a vegetative state and unresponsive.

And his father, Mr Tan Chiau Tong, wants the hospital to answer for his son's current situation.

"The operation was supposed to improve his life. I believe it would have, since the surgeon said it was a success. I would like to know what happened here?" Mr Tan, 64, said.

He told The New Paper that his son, a film production executive, had gone to the hospital after suffering from short-term memory loss.

A scan found a large tumour in his brain and doctors said it had to be removed.

The first phase of the brain surgery to remove 60 per cent of the tumour was "declared a success by his surgeon".

"Three days after the op, Garry regained consciousness and was speaking and eating normally.

"Even in the high-dependency ward, he was fully awake and able to eat and talk.

"The surgeon informed us that Garry was recovering well and he would be able to go ahead with the second part to remove the rest of the tumour two weeks after," said the senior Mr Tan, a technician with a shipping company.

But everything went downhill a day after the patient was transferred to the general ward.

Under observation

'Under observation'

"It was on the 23rd (of June 2010) when his temperature started fluctuating between 38.2 and 38.7 deg C.

"We reported that to the nurses in the ward. They told us that he was under observation and not to worry," the older Mr Tan recalled.

He added: "Garry had just had surgery. Shouldn't they be more attentive?"

Mr Tan said it was on June 26, when his son's fever rose to 41 deg C, that the ward doctor was summoned.

"He turned up only 11/2 hours later. Once again, we were told that he was fine and we had nothing to worry about as my son was being given antibiotics for his fever," Mr Tan said.

Shortly after leaving the hospital for home, the Tans received a call from the hospital to return as "my son was coming to the end of his life's journey".

"We were told later the fever was caused by a urethral inflammation and the fever caused his blood pressure to fall, resulting in his falling into a coma.

"Much later, we were told he had had a stroke only by (his surgeon) after he returned on the 29th from an overseas trip," Mr Tan said.

"Why were we informed that it is a normal, minor fever earlier? Why did the hospital staff not react when informed of the rising fever? Why was the doctor not summoned earlier? Now my son can no longer talk, comprehend things and eat any more," he added.

The elder Mr Tan said he received a letter "only two years after the fact" that an investigation was carried out and the hospital did not find its staff negligent and that his current condition was caused by the tumour.

The family is hoping to go through the findings of the investigation with a fine-tooth comb before deciding on the next move.

At this point, the family has paid up about $24,000 of his medical expenses - mostly drawn from the older Mr Tan's Medisave account.

TTSH's response

TTSH: Care given was appropriate

In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) said Mr Garry Douglas Tan, 35, has been a patient at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and TTSH since 2010 for treatment related to a brain tumour.

Its spokesman said during this time, Mr Tan Chiau Tong had expressed concerns over his son's care.

"A thorough investigation by the hospital, in consultation with independent experts, has concluded that the care and treatment administered to Garry was appropriate," she said.

"Though we deeply empathise with Mr Tan on his son's condition, we would like to state that there was no negligence in the medical management of his son. It was unfortunate that Garry's condition had deteriorated after the surgery."

The spokesman added that both TTSH and NNI staff have met Mr Tan and the family on several occasions and will continue to work closely with them to see what further help could be provided.


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