Nursing student breaks down after failing to save accident victim

Miss Alessandra Leong (left), 19, said she didn't know how to feel after finding out that the man she tried to save had died. But her stepfather, Dr Reginald Teo (right), comforted her, saying that she had done her best.

SINGAPORE - It was her first time handling a life-and-death situation - and it didn't end well.

Miss Alessandra Leong, 19, was on her way to school in a bus on Tuesday morning when she saw an injured motorcyclist lying on Braddell Road.

The final-year nursing student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) hopped off at the next stop and ran to see how she could help the man.

When she discovered that he had no pulse, she performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him for five to six minutes while waiting for medical help to arrive.

But her efforts were in vain. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced the 38-year-old man, Mr Tan Kia Kim, dead at the scene.

Miss Leong was shocked and upset because she had hoped the CPR would resuscitate him.

The paramedics comforted her, saying that she had done the right thing to perform CPR and that the victim had succumbed to his severe injuries.

Mr Tan's motorcycle had skidded in front of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre at about 7.30am, flinging him off the motorbike. His head slammed into a lamp post so violently that its light bulb was dislodged.

Miss Leong's kind deed made front-page headlines on Wednesday, accompanied by pictures of her trying to save Mr Tan. Praise for her actions also flowed in from her family, classmates and strangers.

When The New Paper asked Miss Leong how she felt about the incident, she said: "I feel a bit shy. I never expected myself to be in the newspapers."

She was so shy that she was reluctant to be interviewed and had to be encouraged by her proud stepfather to open up on her eventful day.

Conflicting emotions

Despite the praise and knowing that she had done all she could to save the man, she still faced conflicting emotions.

"I didn't know whether to feel happy, or proud, or guilty," she said.

She later called her stepfather, Dr Reginald Teo, 52, from the bus on her way to school and told him what had happened.

"He told me that I did my best," she said.

When she got to class, Miss Leong was so overwhelmed with emotion that she broke down in front of her friends and her teacher. They comforted her and praised her for what she had done.

Her teacher told her that she was very brave and that it was rare for strangers to help others.

A report on her brave act was also posted on NP's School of Health Sciences' website, with a commendation titled "Alessandra Leong - An Xtraordinary Act of Courage and Civic-Mindedness".

But Miss Leong also drew flak from some netizens, who said she was being a busybody and could have done more harm if she had performed CPR incorrectly.

Mr Tan's younger sister spoke out in Miss Leong's defence, telling Shin Min Daily News: "Even though my brother still died from his injuries, she shouldn't feel bad or feel guilty. We know she tried her best.

"We are grateful to her and her selfless act. Even though netizens criticised her for performing CPR without knowing the situation, she had good intentions. Not everyone is as courageous as her. We are immensely grateful for what she did."

Asked why she had tried to save Mr Tan, Miss Leong said that to her, it was "a normal instinct to help".

Seeing him injured on the ground, she admitted she was scared but told herself: "He may have a family at home. If nobody does anything, what will happen to the family?"

As a nursing student, she knew what she had to do. And it so happened that just last week, her class was tested on how to react in emergency situations. During the test, she was the CPR nurse in her group.

Dr Teo said with pride: "To be able to react under stress and pressure is super commendable."

The dentist at Regent Dental Clinic, who is himself trained to do CPR, added: "I would encourage everybody, whether they are medically trained or not, to go for BCLS (Basic Cardiac Life Support) classes.

"You never know if you may need to use it on a family member or stranger."

Miss Leong said that her biological father, who is divorced from her mother, was also "very proud" of her. She recounted with a laugh that her 12-year-old brother had uploaded a picture of a news article featuring her on photo sharing app Instagram.

But she does not dare to say that this event has prepared her for future emergencies.

She said that what happened was "just one experience and it doesn't change (her attitude) overnight."

One thing is for sure: Miss Leong will continue working towards becoming a nurse.

Her studies are sponsored by the National Heart Centre and she will be bonded for three years.

As a young woman who has always been interested in healthcare since childhood, she said, this is something that she looks forward to.


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