Death in dengue-hit family
Woman, 59, is fourth dengue death this year. She was a healthy person, says daughter
It was a triple whammy for her family.
Three weeks ago, her husband was diagnosed with dengue when she thought that he had contracted just a bout of gastric flu.
Last Friday, her 59-year-old mother developed a fever of 39.9 deg C, followed by joint pains that were brushed off as her arthritis acting up.
The next day, her six-year-old daughter, Jannelle, ran a fever of 40.1 deg C.
Again, private tutor Michelle Chang, who lives with her family in a terrace house in Jalan Minggu, in the Upper Thomson area, thought it was a just a common flu being passed around in the family, until the child was diagnosed with dengue on Monday.
On Wednesday morning, the worst happened. Her mother, Madam Connie Tan, died of dengue in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
"I didn't think that dengue would hit my family so many times," said Dr Chang, 35, who teaches at a tuition and enrichment centre.
"It was not expected at all because there was a three-week lapse between my husband's dengue case and my mum's and daughter's illnesses."
Dr Michelle Chang with her father, Mr Thomas Chang. Mr Chang said it was the first and last time his wife was hospitalised for an illness.
When Madam Tan developed a high fever last Friday, she said she would be fine after taking fever medicine and she did not want to see a doctor.
When Jannelle's fever persisted, Dr Chang took her to KK Women's and Children's Hospital on Monday morning and she was diagnosed with dengue that afternoon after a blood test.
Concerned, Dr Chang insisted that Madam Tan, a housewife, should see a doctor as well and she was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital by Dr Chang's younger sister.
Madam Tan was put on a drip and transferred to a ward, where she was placed under observation on early Tuesday morning.
It was then that Madam Tan's condition started deteriorating. Her blood pressure fluctuated and her vital organs started to fail.
Said Dr Chang: "Even when her kidneys failed, I thought she would still be able to live to fight another day because she was placed on dialysis."
On Wednesday, at 12.15am, Madam Tan suffered a heart failure and attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful. She died of dengue shock syndrome at 2.09am on the same day.
Dr Chang said: "I didn't expect it to be so sudden and I cannot accept it because she was such a healthy person, and she had just cleared her medical check-up in August.
"She should have been able to combat the dengue symptoms because she didn't have prior medical conditions other than high blood pressure and arthritis."
The New Paper understands that the family was told that Madam Tan had dengue, some time during her stay in the hospital.
Friends described Madam Tan as someone who was well-loved and respected.
She was an active member in Tanjong Pagar GRC, gave to charities and sang in a choir every Sunday at Tanjong Pagar Community Club.
Fellow choir member Florence Poh, 57, a housewife, said: "She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and looks out for everyone."
Dr Chang said that her mother and her father, Mr Thomas Chang, 66, moved to Jalan Minggu from Yishun to live with her family two years ago.
"My mum had already made plans (for) when Jannelle starts primary school next year," Dr Chang said. "She said she would pick her up and take her to food centres to eat after school."
The family had also intended to travel to Hong Kong next week.
Dr Chang said: "Jannelle had asked where her po po (grandmother) is and I could only reply that she is no longer with us. It was hard for us to break the news to her because she has always been close to her grandmother."
She added: "I think a community effort is important in tackling dengue. Don't take things lightly when symptoms start to show."
Ironically, when Madam Chang was admitted into hospital, she jokingly asked her husband if she would die. The maintenance superintendant in a hotel brushed it off, saying: "You wouldn't, it is such a small thing."
On losing his wife of 38 years, Mr Chang said: "My heart is aching a lot because it was so sudden. It was her first time being hospitalised because of an illness and now she is never coming back."
She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and looks out for everyone.- Fellow choir member Florence Poh.
She should have been able to combat the dengue symptoms because she didn't have prior medical conditions other than high blood pressure and arthritis.
- Dr Michelle Chang, whose mother, Madam Connie Tan, died of dengue on Wednesday
How to prevent mosquito breeding
Do the 10-minute five-step mozzie wipe-out:
Change water in vases and bowls on alternate days.
Remove water from flower pot plates on alternate days.
Turn over all water storage containers.
Cover bamboo pole holders when not in use.
Clear blockages and put insecticide in roof gutters monthly.
Visit dengue.gov.sg for more information on dengue and dengue clusters.
Thursday's count:50 cases
The National Environment Agency's (NEA) dengue website stated that there were 50 cases of dengue islandwide on Thursday.
The dengue cluster which Madam Connie Tan lived in was categorised as a red zone, a high-risk area with 10 or more cases. There have been 13 cases since the start of this cluster, with three cases in Jalan Minggu.
In a joint statement released on Thursday by the Ministry of Health and NEA, NEA officers have found five counts of Aedes mosquito breeding in the Upper Thomson area and are carrying out vector control operations to kill adult mosquitoes and destroy potential breeding habitats.
"We are seeing an increase in the Aedes mosquito population and are also experiencing a slightly warmer- than-usual year-end weather due to the El Nino phenomenon," the statement said. "The warmer conditions support faster breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquitoes."
There have been 9,782 dengue cases this year as of Dec 5, according to the NEA website. A high of 22,170 cases was reported in 2013.