'I woke up and found my legs gone'

PHOTO: 'I woke up and found my legs gone'

SINGAPORE - When he woke up from a week-long coma, it was just the start of his ordeal.

Bangladeshi construction worker Ahammed Selim looked down and got a shock - there was nothing below his waist.

"I woke up and found my legs gone. It was the shock of my life, but the doctors told me that it (the amputation) had to be done because my legs were crushed," Mr Ahammed said in Bengali through an interpreter from his bed at Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital.

Despite this life-shattering blow from the worksite accident, he said he has a greater worry.

"Who will take care of my family?" he asked, propped up on his hospital bed.

Mr Ahammed, 30, said he came to Singapore in December last year to earn money for his children - a boy and a girl, aged seven and three respectively - and his 25-year-old spouse, a housewife.

And although he speaks to them regularly, he now worries for their future.

Disbelief

"How can my family accept me now? I cannot work any more and there is no one else to feed my family," he said.

During our interview on Thursday, Mr Ahammed was occasionally incoherent and still traumatised by his ordeal.

Initially, he smiled, but he grew sadder when he caught sight of his wheelchair that has been his mode of transportation since the accident.

Mr Ahammed said: "I still cannot believe all this happened when all I wanted to do was provide for my family. There's no point wondering what my future will be like, I just have to take things one day at a time".

The accident happened on March 26 at a worksite at Woodlands Crescent when a metal block weighing 150kg crushed his lower body.

He said: "Just before the accident happened, I was inside a hole 11m deep pumping out sewage water.

"While I was doing that, some other workers were raising a metal block from inside the hole, but the chain broke and the object fell in my direction. It all happened so fast, I could not react."

According to a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) incident report, the chain raising the metal block slipped, causing the accident. He was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Mr Ahammed's brother-in-law, Mr Abu Jaffar, 37, who is also working here, said his friends have been trying to cheer him up, but to no avail.

"Doctors saved his life, but he's all but lost hope.

"His friends come to see him regularly and his company has been paying his medical bills, but Ahammed is worried about his family."

Next   Next   MOM takes action against employer

MOM takes action against employer

An MOM spokesman said the ministry has concluded investigations and taken enforcement action against his employer, Hock Hai Civil Engineering & Building Pte Ltd.

In accordance with the Workplace Safety and Health (Incident Reporting) Regulations, Mr Ahammed's employer reported the incident to MOM within six days. In addition, they have filed a Work Injury Compensation claim with MOM on behalf of Mr Ahammed.

His employers are currently paying for all medical expenses, medical leave wages and stay at the rehabilitation centre.

Hock Hai Civil Engineering & Building's general manager Connie Tay said the company has so far spent up to $200,000 on Mr Ahammed.

The MOM spokesman said it has received the assessment of his injury by his doctor and will be issuing a Notice of Assessment to inform all parties of the amount of compensation payable.

The ministry did not say how much he will receive, but compensation for permanently incapacitated workers is capped at $218,000.

Mr Ahammed now spends his time with a constant companion - a small tablet on which he watches movies, which, at least for a short while, provide a distraction from what he has to endure.

Next   Next   Paraplegic was amputated from waist down

Paraplegic was amputated from waist down

Paraplegic was amputated from waist down

In 2007, two doctors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital performed a radical procedure: They amputated paraplegic Amri Mohd Samat from the waist down.

The procedure, called a hemicorporectomy, took 15 hours, and was done in May that year. It was the first time such an operation has been carried out in Singapore.

Mr Amri, then 41, who was paralysed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident in 1986, suffered from an infection that ate away the flesh on his buttocks and thighs, leaving them so decomposed that his pelvic and thigh bones were exposed.

The infection, caused by pressure sores from sitting in a wheelchair for years, also put him in a coma. He was dying, reported The Straits Times then.

Hemicorporectomy is one of the most mutilating surgical procedures and involves the removal of the legs, genitalia, urinary system, pelvic bones, anus and rectum.

The doctors also created a colostomy, or opening into the colon from outside the body, to redirect body waste. They also created another opening to drain the urine from the abdomen.

Similar operations have been carried out in the US, but many surgeons are reluctant to offer it to patients as it is highly complex.

Mr Amri was found dead in his room on June 2, 2011. The cause of death was pneumonia.


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