Garbage man who lost leg: All I could do was scream

Mr Ravindren Cellapen with his wife Madam Rukumani Muniandy and their two young children. Mr Ravindren's left leg was crushed by the garbage truck he works out of in an accident on 1 November 2013.

It was a day before Deepavali, and Mr Ravindren Cellapen was looking forward to finishing work and returning home to celebrate with his family.

Instead, he ended up in hospital with his leg crushed by the garbage truck he works out of.

His left leg had to be amputated below the knee as a result of the accident in November last year.

In an interview at his home in Johor Baru - about 19km from the Woodlands Checkpoint - the 49-year-old Malaysian, a vehicle attendant for a garbage truck, told The New Paper in Malay: "I don't like to talk about the accident, but the truth is, I remember everything that happened that day."

On the morning of the accident, the father of five children - two daughters aged 20 and eight, and three boys aged 18, 17 and five - said he had just exited the vehicle when he slipped and fell.

But before he could get up on his feet, the driver reversed the 16-tonne garbage truck and crushed the former's left foot and ankle.

Said Mr Ravindren, who worked in Singapore for a year before the accident: "I was in terrible pain, and all I could do was scream.

"My colleague, who witnessed the accident, screamed at the driver and he ran over to help me. He knocked on the driver's side asking the driver to come down.

"The driver was shocked when he saw the tyre crushing my foot. He didn't know what to do, so I told him to reverse and to get the vehicle off me."

Somehow, Mr Ravindren knew his leg could not be saved.

'IT WAS LIFELESS'

"My leg looked like the neck of dead chicken, it was lifeless and somehow I knew it could not be saved," he said.

"When the ambulance came that day, I was very scared. I thought I was going to die because the pain was unbearable," Mr Ravindren added.

At the hospital, things took a turn for the worse.

According to a medical report, doctors immediately put him through a procedure called debridement or the removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue.

Mr Ravindren's left foot and ankle could not be saved, and he underwent an amputation below the knee six days after the accident.

FEARING FOR FUTURE

His wife, Madam Rukumani Muniandy, 41, said she bears no grudges against the man who crippled her husband, the family's sole breadwinner.

She said in Malay: "What saddens me is the fact that the accident happened before Deepavali.

"He usually comes home on time, but he didn't that day. I waited patiently because I thought he was working overtime, but a family friend came over to inform me of the accident. I was devastated."

Mr Ravindren said he now "sits at home all day, unable to work because I can't stand for long as my stump has not healed well".

"This is difficult for me. I've been working since I was 18 years old and am always out there finding ways to provide for my family."

He said he had been offered Workmen Compensation of about $100,000.

The maximum compensation for permanently incapacitated workers is capped at $218,000.

But Mr Ravindren rejected it as he felt the amount was not sufficient for his and his family's future.

"I am permanently disabled and I have kids to put through school," he said.

MONTHLY SALARY

He said he does not regret giving up the compensation and now survives on his monthly salary of $1,225, which he still receives from his employers.

But his regular medical check-ups and physiotherapy appointments in Singapore are a major drain on his expenses.

"For example, I go for physiotherapy at least three times a week in Singapore and this costs me RM$200 ($78) for each visit," said Mr Ravindren.

Because of this, Mr Ravindren said his family has had to make sacrifices.

He has had to pull his youngest son, who is five, out of kindergarten as the fees were too high.

They are now looking for a cheaper alternative for him.

The only help he has received so far has come from his older brother who lent him RM$10,000, but most of that has been used up.

And even though burdened by his misfortune and the extra costs, Mr Ravindren does not want his older children to leave school and find a job.

Let them study, he said, because that is the "only way they can have a better life".

Still, coping with the present remains his biggest worry.

"Before the accident, my salary was just nice for my family. But now there are extra costs, how am I going to pay them?"

The accident is still under investigation by the Manpower Ministry.

Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, errant companies that fail to ensure workplace safety may be fined up to $500,000 for the first offence.

Mr Ravindren has hired a lawyer, Mr G. Dinagaran from law firm Prestige Legal, to seek compensation for his injuries and future medical care.


This article was first published on June 16, 2014.
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