Singapore girl defies odds to play football

(Left) Miss Nurhayati Sidek recovering in hospital in 2011 (Right) just over a year later, the 23-year-old is not only walking, she is back to playing soccer.
PHOTO: Singapore girl defies odds to play football

SINGAPORE - Her spine was shattered and her pelvis crushed.

The cause: The motorcycle she was on crashed into another, throwing her off.

Doctors told her family that it was very likely Miss Nurhayati Sidek would never walk again.

That was in November 2011. Today - a year and a half later - the 23-year-old graduate from the ITE College East has defied the odds. Not only is she walking, she has returned to playing football with former teammates

"I am not in top form like before but I have a very understanding coach.

"I'm allowed to train with my former teammates and slowly build my strength and stamina," said Miss Nurhayati, who walks with a limp.

For her tenacity and fighting spirit, Miss Nurhayati was given the Hero Patient Award, part of Changi General Hospital's (CGH) inaugural Caring Awards. She was scheduled to receive the award from Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor.

The award comprised a certificate, trophy and $350 of NTUC FairPrice vouchers.

Miss Nurhayati recounted that fateful night that changed her life. She was on her way home after supper at Changi Village.

"I was with a group of friends from the old neighbourhood then. My family was moving away so we thought we'd hang out one last time and go for supper," she said.

They were on their way home when the rider she was with hit the motorcycle travelling in front.

Miss Nurhayati was flung off the bike and sustained a rupture of her aorta, the main heart artery. She also suffered multiple fractures to her body including her spine, pelvis and left arm.

A bang, then nothing

Chances of walking again slim

"All I remembered was I heard a bang, then I blacked out when I landed. When I regained consciousness, three strangers had carried me to the side of the road. I could not feel my body from my neck down," she said.

Doctors at CGH said that her chances of survival were slim and that if she survived, she would probably be paralysed from the waist down.

In an interview with TNP, the hospital's vascular surgeon Steven Kum said Miss Nurhayati had a tear in her aorta and fractured the middle segment of her spine.

"When she came in, her blood pressure was very low from internal bleeding. She had zero chance of survival if she did not have surgery within the hour," he said.

Miss Nurhayati was immediately moved into the operating theatre where Dr Kum stented her aorta in 30 minutes to stop the internal bleeding.

"While she underwent the procedure, the multi-disciplinary trauma team continued to resuscitate her with blood products to replace the ones she had lost," he said.

After she was stabilised, she underwent another operation to correct the spinal fractures.

Said Miss Nurhayati: "When I came to, I was already in the ward. My very solemn-faced elder sister was standing by the bedside.

"She told me the good news - that I survived - and the bad - I might be paralysed from my waist down."

Proving the doctors wrong, she surprised her sister, Miss Siti Zubaidah Sidek, by moving her feet.

Determination pays off

Determination pays off

Not wanting to burden her family, Miss Nurhayati was determined to get up and walk again.

She said that her parents cried every time she made an effort.

Despite feeling depressed that she would never be as strong as she used to, the second child of a family of eight children told herself to "never give up".

"I wanted to get back on my feet so badly. Physiotherapy was especially painful and difficult because I was so weak, but I pushed myself," she said.

Miss Nurhayati was discharged from hospital in just 17 days yet she made sure she returned for her physiotherapy sessions regularly, three times a week.

One of the Caring Awards judges, executive director of Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home Low Mui Lang, said Miss Nurhayati's story of recovery was picked because it was inspiring.

Miss Nurhayati, who was born with cerebral palsy, is now playing as a defender in the football team for the Society for the Physically Disabled.

She is glad she is progressing.

"Although I can't train as intensively as I could before the accident, I am looking forward to the day when I'll be able to play a full match," she said.

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