Fall on bus leaves her a shadow of her former self
Woman whose family is suing SMRT over a fall in a bus that left her skull fractured is now 'abnormal', says husband
Madam Ding Weibo, 58, used to single-handedly take care of her family.
The housewife cooked and cleaned, did the marketing every day to make sure the food on the table was fresh and took care of two Pomeranians, the family pets.
She loved shopping and would go to Orchard Road two to three times a week with her daughter to shop, feast or take in the sights.
Lively, curious and adventurous, she would visit new sights - Gardens By The Bay and The Marina Barrage - as soon as they opened.
All that was before the 2011 accident that caused her to fall in an SMRT bus and fracture her skull.
Today, Madam Ding is but a shadow of her former self.
Although she can walk and talk, she can only do so slowly. She needs round-the-clock care and is being looked after by her husband, Mr You Bujia, 62.
In the past four years, she has not ventured beyond their 19th-storey flat in Cantonment Close except to go downstairs for her morning exercises and to the hospital for medical check-ups.
Speaking to The New Paper in Mandarin, Mr You said he has stopped running his import and export business to take care of her full-time.
The family of three now depend financially on his savings and on their daughter Ding Xiao Sui, 30.
Originally from China, the three are permanent residents and have lived here for more than 15 years.
Said Mr You: "Every day has become rather routine for me. In the morning, I'd take her down for her exercises. Then it's breakfast and after I have settled her down, I go to the market to get daily groceries.
"I'd rather she eats well and the freshest of food. That way, she will be able to get better, stronger."
Mr You was in the middle of a business meeting in China in 2011 when he received a phone call from his daughter, who, in between sobs, told him about the accident. He cut short his trip and returned immediately.
Mr You said that he and his daughter were both elated when Madam Ding regained consciousness a few weeks after the incident, but their happiness was short-lived.
The doctors had told him there was a possibility that his wife would suffer from mental disability or memory loss as a result of her head injuries and he was prepared for it.
Describing her behaviour now as abnormal, Mr You said: "She is no longer that pleasant, lively woman I knew. Her mental faculties had been affected by that knock on the head.
"She is now childlike and would throw tantrums. Sometimes, she is given to anger for no reason.
"She has also lost her sense of smell and taste. Despite that, we still buy her durians, her favourite fruit. Although she makes a mess every time she eats (durian), I could tell she still enjoys it."
Mr You remembered one occasion when they passed by Orchard Road while on the way to the hospital.
"I asked if she remembered this place. She simply stared blankly out the window. But she looked like she was fascinated with the tall buildings and the decorations there," he said.
The family had planned to visit Japan and Korea "because she had always wanted to visit these places", but the plans are now shelved.
"I don't know for how long. I don't think she will be able to travel in this state," said Mr You.
Mr You felt he has aged a lot because of the stress and worry over his wife's condition and the recent legal suit he brought against SMRT and the driver.
"I never had eye bags before this. But now, they are a constant feature on my face," he said.
Despite his dedication to Madam Ding, Mr You is grateful for the times when his daughter and relatives, who live here, come over to offer respite.
On his dedication to his wife, Mr You said "We have been married for 30 years and known each other for more than that.
"She had given me a daughter and had taken care of us.
"At least I, as her husband and a decent human being, should love and have the compassion to take care of her in return."
"She is no longer that pleasant, lively woman I knew. Her mental faculties had been affected by that knock on the head."
- Mr You Bujia, the husband of Madam Ding Weibo
The accident & court cases
Madam Ding Weibo and her daughter Ding Xiao Sui, then 27, boarded SMRT bus service 167 outside The Heeren shopping centre on Dec 18, 2011.
They had been shopping along Orchard Road and were returning to their Cantonment Close flat when the accident happened at 8pm.
Mother and daughter were making their way to some empty seats in the middle of the bus, when the driver braked sharply, causing Madam Ding to fall and hit her head on a seat. The impact knocked her unconscious.
She went into a coma and only regained consciousness in the Singapore General Hospital a few weeks later.
THE NEW PAPER, JAN 10, 2012
Her skull was fractured and she had bleeding in her brain. She underwent two surgeries.
The driver, Mr M. Ezar M. Hassan, was suspended by SMRT soon after the incident. He later lost his job after a criminal charge was brought against him for causing grievous hurt by a negligent act.
He pleaded guilty and was fined $4,500 in January 2013.
Madam Ding's husband, Mr You Bujia, filed a suit on her behalf against both SMRT and Mr Ezar in April last year. On Tuesday, the day of the trial, an agreement was reached by all three parties.
SMRT and Mr Ezar will shoulder 95 per cent of the responsibility for the accident and Madam Ding will bear five per cent.
Mr You declined to reveal how much the family was seeking from SMRT, saying that he was leaving that to his lawyer, Mr Tito Isaac.
Should SMRT contest the amount of damages asked for, a separate hearing will be held to decide how much it should pay.
What happens after brain trauma
Traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head.
Many people who have suffered a significant brain injury will experience changes in their thinking, memory, reasoning and even personality.
Language and communications problems are also common.
Sometimes, they experience changes in behaviour.
Dr Ivan Ng, a neurosurgeon in private practice in Mount Elizabeth Novena medical centre, said that Madam Ding Weibo suffered an acceleration-deceleration injury.
"The skull and brain are of two densities and inertial coefficient is different," he said.
"When the patient fell forward and hit her head - essentially, the skull comes to a stop, but the brain is moving and crashes against the inside of the skull. This leads to shearing forces that disrupt brain signals, causing coma."
The response to such an injury is brain swelling, which requires the brain surgeon to remove the skull and clots "so that the brain is not caught within the rigid fixed volume confines of the skull".
After recovery, the patient undergoes an operation to close the bone defect using an artificial implant.
"While the patient is alive, the shearing forces sustained during the injury has severed her nerves of smell, as it exits the base of skull at the top of the nose," he said.
As to the change in her personality, Dr Ng believes the frontal lobes probably sustained some injury as well.
The frontal lobes are considered the emotional control centre and the centre of a person's personality.