'I'm returning home with a full skull'

Above: Bangladeshis (from left) Mosa Kalimolla Siraj Uddin, Majibar Hakim and Md Lablu Md Rowshan Molla. All three of them had part of their skulls removed last year as a result of workplace injuries. For Mr Mosa and Mr Md Lablu, their employers will pay for surgery to reconstruct their skulls. As for Mr Majibur, Transient Workers Count Too has offered to foot the bill.

SINGAPORE - After workplace accidents, three foreign workers each had a dent in their heads.

Why? Because they suffered head injuries and had part of their skulls removed.

For two of them, their employers will pay for surgery to reconstruct their skulls.

As for the third worker who has gone for skull reconstruction and who does not have a dent on his head any more, a non-government organisation (NGO) has offered to foot the surgery bill.

The worker, Bangladeshi Majibar Hakim, told The New Paper yesterday that in March last year, a blood vessel in his head burst while he was at work.

As a result, the 27-year-old general worker suddenly lost consciousness, had an epileptic fit and collapsed.

When he came to, he was lying in a bed in Raffles Hospital.

He said: "My colleagues said I hit my head."

According to a report from the hospital, Mr Majibar suffered "massive" bleeding within his skull.

He told TNP that the bleeding caused pressure within his skull, which could lead to brain damage.

"The doctors removed part of my skull to relieve the pressure," he said.

After the operation, there was a large depression in Mr Majibar's head.

He said: "When I walk in the sun, I can feel the heat on my brain.

"The depression is gone every morning when I wake up as a lot of blood flows to my head while I'm sleeping.

"But it would appear again by noon."

Cranioplasty surgery

To fill the gap in his skull, Mr Majibar underwent cranioplasty surgery last Friday.

After the procedure, he said: "I needed it. Otherwise, something or someone might hit my head and I might die."

He claimed his former employer would not pay for the surgery, but this could not be verified as the employer could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told TNP that Mr Majibar's employer had paid for his previous medical expenses.

MOM had previously said that these costs "significantly exceeded" the limit for compensation benefits for medical expenses, under the Work Injury Compensation Act.

Mr Majibar's case took place before the upward revision of the Work Injury Compensation Act limits, thus the limit for his case was $25,000. Since June, this has been increased to S$30,000.

He claimed that after his injury, his employer would not let him live in a dormitory if he did not work.

So he approached Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a group which helps migrant workers here, last December for food and shelter.

And when his company wanted to send him back to Bangladesh last month without the operation, TWC2 offered to pay for the procedure.

TWC2 volunteer Debbie Fordyce said that without the protection of part of his skull, Mr Majibar is in danger of sustaining life-threatening head injuries.

Added the 57-year-old: "There are branches and fruits which can fall on one's head at any time.

"The procedure may not be urgent, but it is dangerous to move around without such protection."

Mr Majibar said that after his first operation last year, he suffered paralysis in the left side of his body.

In the early stages of his recovery, he could neither eat nor talk. He still cannot run, and has limited feeling in, and control of, his left arm and leg.

TWC2 sent Mr Majibar a letter of guarantee last Wednesday stating it would pay for his operation, which is estimated to cost S$20,000 .

The money will come from a TWC2 fund which is dedicated to paying the medical expenses of migrant workers. A large portion of this fund was donated by the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.

During Mr Majibar's operation, his surgeon, Dr Tang Kok Kee, used an artificial implant to fill up the space left in Mr Majibar's skull.

'Brain protection'

'Brain protection'

Dr Tang told TNP: "The main aim of the procedure is brain protection. This is absolutely necessary for people who are ambulant. How can you go through life without a skull?"

An MOM spokesman told TNP that Mr Majibar was awarded about S$126,000 in permanent incapacity compensation, and this amount has been paid to him.

TNP understands that the money is to compensate for the loss of future earnings, and is not meant to be spent on subsequent medical expenses.

Mr Majibar said: "I hope to use my compensation to buy some property in my home village, and provide my two younger sisters with a good education.

"I'm grateful to TWC2 for letting me return home with a full skull."

The MOM spokesman told TNP that it had assessed that the injuries of the three workers were work-related.

Bangladeshi workers Md Lablu Md Rowshan Molla, 32, and Mosa Kalimolla Siraj Uddin, 20, also suffered head injuries during workplace accidents last year.

Mr Md Lablu hit his head while falling from a ladder last November, and a forklift truck hit Mr Mosa's head last December.

Both were sent to hospital, had parts of their skull removed, and are waiting cranioplasty surgery.

Mr Md Lablu said: "Whenever I leave the house, I wear a cap to 'protect' my head. But I'm still scared that something might fall onto it.

"At night, I cannot lie on the side with the hole in my skull, or my brain would bulge out and I'll get a headache."

"The procedure may not be urgent, but it is dangerous to move around without such protection."

- Transient Workers Count Too volunteer Debbie Fordyce



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