'Nurse with a crutch' now helps other patients in need
After suffering multiple injuries in hit-and-run accident, she is back on her feet and giving back to the community
This National Day, we celebrate with 16 stories of people who overcame adversity to give back to society. Read their stories and watch the videos at tnp.sg/ndp2016
One moment, the wind was blowing in her face as she rode her motorcycle along Tampines Avenue 9.
The next, she was on the road, bleeding and broken.
Ms Siti Hajar Ninhadi, then 22, was on her way home from Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where she worked as a nurse, when she became a victim of a hit-and-run accident.
It was January 2007.
"I had forgotten my wallet, and I was on my way home to retrieve it. It was my second night shift that week. I had called my mother and she was waiting for me, but I never showed," she said.
The accident left her with two broken knees, a fractured arm and a cracked skull.
"Initially, the police said I had skidded but a year later, a witness came forward. He saw the accident from his flat and said a white van drove away from the scene," she said. She added that till today, no one has been prosecuted for the case.
Ms Siti, now 30, said she regained consciousness at the emergency room of Changi General Hospital (CGH).
The first thing she did was to count her fingers and toes.
"But I counted only five toes, so I asked where my other five were. Then I discovered my knee was badly broken and my leg had folded so awkwardly that my foot was next to my face. I started crying and screaming for them to fix me," she said.
By then her family members had arrived.
"Thinking it could be my last moments, my grandmother whispered the Shahada (the Muslim proclamation of faith) in my ear just before I was pushed into the operating theatre. The doctors worked on me for over seven hours," she said.
Doctors at CGH told her she would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. Not wanting to give up her independence and her career as a nurse, Ms Siti asked to be transferred to SGH where she works.
"I wanted to be surrounded by the people I know. And when my orthopaedic surgeon told me I had a 50-50 chance of recovery if I were to go through multiple surgeries, it gave me that glimmer of hope, and I agreed," she said.
A donor knee bone had to be sourced and flown in from a bone bank in Britain and implanted.
"Physiotherapy was not only painful but tiring. There were times I wanted to give up. I became depressed, especially when I saw nurses run around attending to call bells, going with doctors on their rounds, and helping patients. I missed doing that and it made me cry," she said.
"As nurses, we often encourage patients to stay strong. Being on the other side, I found that staying strong was not an easy thing to do," she added.
But her family and friends rallied around her, visiting every day and taking turns to keep her spirits up.
After a month in the hospital, Ms Siti stood for the first time.
"My legs were heavy and painful, but the ward nurses and my family were cheering and urging me on to take that first step. When I did, there were no dry eyes in the room," she said.
Ms Siti returned to work exactly a year after her accident.
"To stop people from knocking me over, I went to work with a crutch and was known for a long time as 'the nurse with a crutch'," she said.
Now an Assistant Nurse Clinician and with the Office for Integrated Care at SGH, she refers patients to the appropriate community providers that can help to support them with their needs.
"A holistic and patient-centric care will greatly reduce the stress, doubts and uncertainties a patient and his caregiver go through.
"I have overcome this major crisis in my life and I am proud to be back on my feet to be able to continue my job as a nurse and give back to the community," she said.
"My legs were heavy and painful but the ward nurses and my family were cheering and urging me on to take that first step. When I did, there were no dry eyes in the room." - Ms Siti Hajar Ninhadi
TNP SPIRIT OF 16 GIVINGBACK
The beneficiary is Muhammadiyah Welfare Home (MWH)