Woman bounces back from crippling motorcycle crash
At her lowest point, she felt less than human - she was bedridden, tube-fed, in diapers and unable to talk.
A motorbike accident three years ago had left Miss Teo Wei Shan, who was the pillion rider, with a brain injury.
"I was like a puppet, doing what people told me to do, like sit or stand," she said.
The road to recovery was made more arduous for her, having to deal with complications from brain surgery.
But her grit and determination to bounce back made her one of the recipients of the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards. (See report above.)
Speaking to The New Paper before the award ceremony on Tuesday, Miss Teo, 25, a former pet groomer who is now looking for a job, said she does not remember how exactly the accident happened.
What she knows of that night in July 2012 is based on friends' accounts pieced together.
"We were going to eat supper at midnight. At Braddell, the bike hit the kerb and I fell. My helmet flew off and my head hit the railing."
Miss Teo went through an operation to remove a blood clot but had to be sent back to the operating theatre within a month because of excess fluid in the brain.
Senior staff nurse Tan Bee Ling explained that a brain shunt - a narrow tube - had to be inserted into Miss Teo's brain to drain the excess fluid.
A month later, Miss Teo had to go through a cranioplasty - a surgical procedure to repair the skull.
By the time she started her occupational and physiotherapy, it was already September 2012, said Ms Tan, a nurse at the neurosurgery department of the National Neuroscience Institute.
"She was responsive, but you needed to coax and encourage her," the senior staff nurse added.
Recalling the initial period when she was unable to talk, had to be fed through a tube and required help with all her daily needs, Miss Teo said: "I spent my days at home, unless I had to go see the doctor. I had to use a wheelchair, it was very troublesome... At that point, I wasn't very aware of what was happening. Looking back, that was probably my lowest point."
Even then, she worked hard on getting her life back on track with home-based therapies after she was discharged in January 2013.
"I don't know where this determination comes from. I think it's because I'm stubborn. I've been like that since I was young," Miss Teo said with a smile.
Later that year, she brought tears to her mother's eyes with the first word she said.
"I called her 'Mummy'. It just came naturally to me. She started crying. I've seen her cry before, but not this hard," she said.
Her mother declined to talk to TNP.
Miss Teo let on that the biggest change in her after the accident is her attitude towards her mother.
Pausing for a while to compose herself, she said: "I saw how much (my mother) has done for me every step of the way.
"She has been very patient with me, bearing with me when I repeat myself."
Miss Teo found herself no longer able to keep up with the physical demands of her former job as a pet groomer.
The accident also caused Miss Teo to suffer from short-term memory loss.
That became a hurdle when she started a new job as a part-time cashier last year.
"(My manager) told the rest of the staff about my condition so they could take care of me. But the rest of the staff used my weakness against me," Miss Teo said.
Slip-ups at work were blamed on her, she claimed, and she often had to make up for the shortfall in the till with her own money.
Discouraged, suicidal thoughts started floating in her mind.
"I found myself wondering why the accident didn't claim my life," Miss Teo said quietly.
She confided in Ms Tan.
"Thankfully, she seemed better after talking to me about it," Ms Tan said.
Miss Teo, who has since quit her cashier job, hopes to find a new job soon.
"I have been living on my savings but unfortunately, it is running dry," she said.
"I don't know where this determination comes from. I think it's because I'm stubborn. I've been like that since I was young."
- Ms Teo Wei Shan, who suffered from brain injury after a motorbike accident three years ago
Awards are for patients, caregivers
The Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards was launched in 2010 to pay tribute to patients and caregivers who have shown courage, resilience and patience.
It is organised by the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre.
Two new categories were introduced this year:
- Inspirational Patient Volunteers Award, which acknowledges patients who have improved the lives of other patients through volunteering.
- Inspirational Clinical Trial Patients Award, which acknowledges patients who have volunteered for clinical trials and studies to help bring about better treatment options for others.
This year's awards were given out to 23 patients and nine caregivers. Each winner received a plaque and $250 in gift vouchers.