Support pours in for teen hurt in juicer accident

SINGAPORE - New Year's Eve cheer was the last thing on the minds of 14-year-old Tan Li Xuan and her family, who are still coming to terms with how their lives changed more than a week ago.

But last night, they still huddled around Li Xuan's bed in a Tan Tock Seng Hospital ward to count down to 2014.

Things are starting to look up for the teenager, who lost her right index and middle fingers in a sugar-cane juicer accident on Dec 22 while helping out at her father's Toa Payoh hawker stall.

Doctors carried out two operations last Thursday and Friday to save her half-severed thumb by attaching one of her right toes and grafted skin onto her badly lacerated right arm.

It left the Secondary 2 student of Guangyang Secondary School with low blood pressure, but this has since improved, said her father, Mr Tan Guan An, 50, yesterday. She has also begun to gingerly move her new thumb.

Her spirits still waver though, and her family wishes that "things would return to normal", said Mr Tan.

He was speaking to The Straits Times while his wife, Madam Mabel Ang, 44, a casino dealer at Marina Bay Sands, rested in a nearby room.

They and their two other teenage children have been taking turns keeping vigil at Li Xuan's bedside, managing just a few hours' sleep each night.

In her first comments to the media since the accident, Li Xuan said that she has had to "distract" herself from thinking about her injuries.

She tries her best to instead focus on the words of encouragement from schoolmates who regularly visit her.

"They told me that they will help me catch up with homework when I go back to school," she said softly.

But she shared that her No. 1 goal for 2014 is "to fight through this".

Li Xuan's road to recovery is estimated to take nine months, before she can start physiotherapy on her injured right hand.

The right-hander will also be trained to use her left hand for daily activities.

Her family continues to be worried about the eventual hospital bill, which Medisave will only partially defray.

At present, they have no clue how much money will be needed and the drinks stall at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 has since been closed indefinitely, said Madam Ang.

Donations and words of support are already pouring in from Singaporeans far and wide, including dozens of Straits Times readers who are anxious to help tide the family through their difficult period.

Others, like residents at The Peak condominium in Toa Payoh, are organising donation drives to raise funds.

Many were moved by the young teenager's filial piety. Li Xuan had regularly put in a shift at the family drinks stall, taking turns with her 17-year-old brother and older sister, 16.

"I'm praying that this incident will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for her," said lawyer Tan Peng Chin, 56, who transferred $2,000 to the Tans' POSB bank account.

Said events manager Kerrie Tan, 36, who gave $100 the same way: "At an age when other teens are having fun, working to help one's family is admirable.

"It reminds me of how tough life can be for some families in Singapore."

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