SINGAPORE - She was hospitalised for bacterial meningitis, a brain infection that could lead to brain damage and even death.
Miss Kareen Chin, 24, eventually pulled through after being in hospital for 16 days.
But the Nanyang Technological University student faced a $10,000 hospital bill and worried about how she was going to pay it.
That was when her boyfriend Eugene Soh came to her rescue.
He set up a website to chart her recovery and, at the same time, he asked for donations to help pay her medical bill.
To his surprise, he managed to raise the full amount in about a week.
Said Mr Soh, 26, an artist : "I was in a state of disbelief. I did not expect the site to work out. We even reached the target amount."
Miss Chin's problems started on Oct 8, when she started experiencing headaches at home.
She said: "My headaches would usually stop after I took painkillers. But this time, the headache felt different and it didn't go away.
"I knew that there was something wrong."
The headache got so severe that Miss Chin had trouble sleeping throughout the night.
Headache so severe, she had to be hospitalised
The next morning at about 9am, Mr Soh took her to the accident and emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she was immediately warded.
Miss Chin said: "My family was very worried as they were afraid that I had to undergo surgery."
Miss Chin also suffers from lupus, an incurable condition that causes the immunity system to attack normal, healthy tissue in the body.
Explained Miss Chin: "The medication I take for lupus suppresses my immune system, which makes me more susceptible to other infections."
By the third day of her hospitalisation, Miss Chin said her bill had hit $2,000.
HOSPITAL BILL SHOCK
A few days later, she was told that the estimated bill for her 16-day stay, which included many brain scans and three different types of antibiotics, would hit $10,000.
Said Miss Chin: "I didn't know where I was going to get the money."
The final-year accountancy student explained that it was difficult to get insurance because of lupus, her pre-existing condition.
She said: "Many insurance companies do not cover lupus as the condition makes people more prone to other infections." Miss Chin's parents are separated and she is not in contact with her father.
Her mother, a factory machine operator, draws a monthly income of about $1,000. Miss Chin has three sisters, who live in Malaysia.
Turning to strangers for help
Turning to strangers for help
Faced with the large hospital bill, Mr Soh, who has been dating Miss Chin for two years, had an idea: Why not turn to the Internet for help?
He had 56 web domains as part of an art project, one of which was "strong.sg".
Beside his bed was a list of all the domain names and one night, while on his bed, he turned his head towards it. The word strong.sg was staring at him.
He said: "On Kareen's photos, many of our friends commented things like 'stay strong'." "That was how my idea came about."
A few days after Miss Chin was warded, Mr Soh set up a donation website, stay.strong.sg, asking for donations to help her pay her hospital fees.
Miss Chin said she had no idea about the website when it was first set up.
She said: "We were text messaging at 6am and I was wondering why he was awake so early."
It turns out that Mr Soh was busy at work. Said Mr Soh with a chuckle: "I spent 24 hours setting up the donation website."
At noon on the same day, Mr Soh sent the website address to Miss Chin.
Said Miss Chin: "When I went to the website, I saw photos of me with money signs everywhere! I remember wondering, 'What is going on?'"
Donations pour in
Donations pour in
The next day, Mr Soh found out that his friend, Miss Tan Jingliang, 23, a freelance film-maker, had donated $220.
Miss Tan said that Mr Soh had donated money to her when she was raising funds for her film project and she wanted to return the favour.
She told TNP: "I don't know Kareen personally, but I understood her condition and I just wanted to help."
That was not the only donation.
Friends, friends of friends and even strangers gave donations ranging from $50 to $500. Through the website, the couple managed to raise $10,379.
"I was so happy. I thought only my close friends would help, but even ex-classmates whom I haven't spoken to in a long time came forward to donate," said Miss Chin, who was discharged on Oct 25.
Mr Soh said that what is left of the money after the hospital bills are paid will be donated to the Lupus Association of Singapore.
He will also be mailing copies of the hospital receipts to all the donors to account for the funds.
He was surprised at the good response as the website was completely independent.
Said Mr Soh: "I made it from scratch, expecting the donations to reach not more than $2,000. I would've been happy even with that amount.
"I'm very thankful. Their contributions really meant a lot to Kareen and I."
Said Miss Chin: "There were so many people who were willing to help me without even giving a single thought.
"I'm so grateful to everyone who donated."
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