He might walk again one day

It was his last day of orientation camp in Sentosa and he was playing with his friends in waist-deep water at the beach.

Then, the young man dived head first into the water. The next thing he knew, he had hit something hard and a jolt of pain shot through him. To his shock, he realised that he could no longer move his limbs and body.

Fortunately, his friends managed to haul him to shore just as he was running out of air. The 22-year-old undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who was initially paralysed from the neck down, is now paralysed from the chest down.

The New Paper understands that doctors have told him that there is a chance he might walk again one day.

His family, who requested that he not be named, declined to be interviewed.

The second-year student was at Palawan Beach on Sentosa early last month to help out at his science faculty's orientation camp, which involved about 500 seniors and freshmen.

On Aug 3, the last day of the camp, he was playing a game with his friends in the water, a spokesman for NUS said.

TNP understands that it is believed that he hit his head when he dived into the water.

His friends realised something was wrong when they noticed him lying prone and motionless in the water. They pulled him out of the water and dragged him ashore.

TNP understands that despite being badly injured, he was conscious throughout and could speak.

He asked for his mobile phone because he wanted to tell his father what had happened. But one of his friends instead called his father to tell him the bad news.

Camp organisers immediately called off the beach game and ushered the rest of the participants away from the scene, one of his friends told TNP.

The friend, who declined to be named, said: "I was with another orientation group and we were told to gather a distance away.

"We didn't know what was going on then. We only found out what happened later. The organisers did a good job keeping the situation under control." One of the victim's friends called the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and an ambulance reached there at about 3.50pm. An SCDF spokesman said its paramedics found a man in his 20s suffering from a suspected spinal injury.

Neck brace

He was put in a neck brace and taken to the Singapore General Hospital, where he had several Xrays and scans.

The Sentosa Development Corporation said its beach patrol team immediately attended to the victim while waiting for the ambulance to arrive at the resort island. Its rangers escorted the ambulance to the accident scene.

Doctors told the undergraduate that the scans showed he had sustained a fracture to a bone in his neck.

On Aug 5, he underwent surgery and a metal plate was inserted into his neck. Two weeks later, he was transferred to another hospital, where he is undergoing rehabilitation.

Although still paralysed from his chest down,his condition has improved. He is slowly regaining control of his arms, but is still unable to move his fingers.

His friend said: "I visited him in hospital and he has recovered quite fast. He's very strong-willed and I have no worries that he will be motivated to recover quickly."

TNP understands the victim has applied for a year's leave of absence from NUS. On his Facebook page, friends have wished him a speedy recovery and said they were waiting for him to return to school.

The friends and staff in the science faculty are raising money to help with his medical expenses, the NUS spokesman said. She added: "The safety and well-being of our students is a top priority at NUS.

"A thorough investigation of the incident was conducted and it was concluded that the injury sustained resulted from an unfortunate accident.

"Our thoughts are with (him). We hope very much that he makes a speedy recovery." Sentosa Development Corporation said it had investigated the matter and it wished the young man a full recovery.

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