Parents distraught as first one twin dies, then the other
In 2011, her twin sister Tan Suxuan suddenly died, to a mystery illness her parents still struggle to explain.
Yesterday, part-time student Tan Sumiao, aged 23, succumbed after undergoing 11 operations in 45 days in a battle with a rare virus.
As the heart rate monitors beside her bed flatlined on Saturday evening, loud sobs erupted from more than 20 friends and relatives who had gathered at her bedside to say their final goodbyes.
Even a doctor broke down in tears, said Miss Sumiao's father, Mr Tan Sew Poh, 64.
Her death certificate says Miss Sumiao died of a cardiorespiratory failure, or the failure of the heart and lungs to function, pending further investigation.
But to her father, her death, while coming as a huge shock, was a merciful alternative to the likelihood of a life fraught with suffering.
Said Mr Tan in Mandarin: "The doctor had told me that even if she had survived this, her condition means she would have had many complications."
"Now she does not have to worry about pain, or of being bedridden. Short pain is better than lengthy suffering, and she went peacefully."
Mr Tan spoke to The New Paper at his daughter's wake yesterday.
He explained that her illness had started with a mild fever, which did not go away after visits to their family doctor for almost two weeks.
On July 29, she was warded at Alexandra Hospital with a fever, and was transferred to National University Hospital the next evening when she had breathing problems.
There, she was sent to surgery and was transferred to the intensive care unit.
Said a close friend of three years, Mr Alvin Lee, 22: "Before she went to the hospital, she told me she felt very tired. She had a dry cough, but she didn't seem to think it was anything serious."
But Miss Tan's parents feared the worst, especially after going through the death of their younger twin in 2011.
Said Mr Tan: "My wife and I were already mentally prepared for this ever since she got warded."
He and his wife, Madam See Beng Hwa, 63, visited their elder daughter daily, despite their jobs as a part-time bookkeeper and clerk respectively.
Said Mr Tan: "We went every day to look after her and give her massages."
He said that Miss Sumiao was conscious but could not speak, and was only able to open her eyes and move her fingers.
Then the call came on Saturday evening, telling the Tans to go to their daughter's bedside as her condition was deteriorating.
It was heartbreak all over again for the Tans, who in 2011, had to endure two weeks of their younger daughter's coma before she died.
Mr Tan admitted that his elder daughter had been deeply affected by the death of her identical twin.
"I had told her to live strong, there's no point harping over what is gone.
"But I did not expect (Sumiao) to go too."
When asked what his plans are now that his children are gone, Mr Tan shook his head and replied: "What can I do?"
Miss Sumiao's medical bills came to about $40,000, which was much more than he had to pay for Miss Suxuan's treatment, he said.
The medical bills have wiped out the couple's savings. They earn a combined income of around $1,700 a month.
He said: "I used to tell Sumiao that when both papa and mama are gone, there's no need to worry. She can rent out the flat and stay with relatives."
Now, he might have to listen to his own advice and rely on help from relatives and friends.
"There's not much (savings) left. Maybe a few thousand, that's all," said Mr Tan.
Miss Sumiao's body will be cremated on Wednesday at Mandai Crematorium.
Twin sister went into coma and never woke up
In 2011, Miss Tan Suxuan, then 20, had visited the hospital for a monthly spinal check-up and was hospitalised for seven days for observation.
But two weeks before she died, her blood pressure suddenly plummeted.
Her father, Mr Tan Sew Poh, 64, believes it was due to the medication she had been taking at the time.
Miss Suxuan went into a coma and never woke up.
Since then, her elder twin, Miss Tan Sumiao, had been badly affected by the death, said her mother, Madam See Beng Hwa, 63, previously.
A close friend of Miss Sumiao, Mr Alvin Lee, 22, also said that she was "quite upset" by Miss Suxuan's passing.
Mr Tan said the twins had been close and had shared many happy memories.
He recounted an incident from years ago when the twins came across an injured crow on the street.
"They were so anxious that the crow was injured and even called for some animal welfare service to look after the bird."
"They were very kind, these girls, and it's a memory that I have kept in my heart," he said with a smile.