'I saw ray of light again'

FIGHTER: Mr Tan Whee Boon is recovering in hospital after his legs were amputated two days ago. His hands were removed last Friday.

She was distraught by thoughts of the future when she found out her husband, the sole breadwinner of the family, would have to have his hands and feet amputated.

But Madam Choong Siet Mei, 47, is now hopeful, after doctors showed her a clip of a 3D-printed prosthetics that could help her husband regain his function as much as possible.

"It felt like I saw a ray of light again. The limbs look quite flexible.

"I'm hoping they can be fitted on my husband after he's done with his therapy sessions," the housewife told The New Paper in Mandarin yesterday, sounding upbeat.

The couple have two children, a son, 14 and a daughter, 15.

Mr Tan Whee Boon, 50, had his legs amputated two days ago.

His hands were removed last Friday.

It all began last month with an infection that left the technician on the brink of death.

He was given a drug that directed blood flow to his vital organs. Ironically, the drug that saved his life caused his limbs to turn gangrenous.

They became shrivelled and Mr Tan was advised to have them amputated.

Even though the operation carried a risk of 1 to 5 per cent, Madam Choong admitted that she still feared for the worst.

"Before he was wheeled into the operating theatre, I told him to 'jia you' (Mandarin for keep going)," she said.

Both operations lasted two hours.

"I only heaved a sigh of relief when I received a text message from the hospital, notifying me that the operation was over," said Madam Choong.

"Text messages mean good news, while calls usually mean something bad has happened," she added, recalling the day the hospital called to tell her about her husband's precarious situation.

The pain from his first operation to remove his hands was still bearable and Mr Tan managed to wean himself off painkillers after three days.

"After the first surgery last week, my husband said the pain came in waves. But after the leg operation, he was in so much pain that he couldn't sleep at night.

"The doctor just gave him a painkiller jab," said Madam Choong.


But it helped that Mr Tan is a fighter, she said.

Visits by strangers, some of whom have done their own fund-raising for the family, have also brought them much comfort.

So far, the family has received close to $120,000 in donations.

They received more than $60,000 from a bank account set up by the couple's friend and more than $58,000 from two crowdfunding campaigns, one of which is still ongoing.

Madam Choong said they were touched by the kind gestures.

There have also been offers of work for Madam Choong and even offers of monthly financial help for the couple.

Said Madam Choong: "The number of people who came forward have been overwhelming.

"Singaporeans are a compassionate bunch."

This article was first published on August 29, 2015.
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