Paralysed man who sued town council after fall dies
Man who sued Sembawang Town Council after becoming paralysed in fall dies
For the last eight years, she would return home to see her paralysed husband lying on his bed, yet always with a smile on his face.
But when Mrs Angeline Aw went home last Saturday, the bed was empty.
Her husband, Mr Aw Kian Chow, died in hospital after suffering breathing difficulties.
"The house felt empty all of a sudden. It is so difficult for me to look at his bed," said the 47-year-old mother of two children, aged 15 and 18.
Mr Aw, 59, was in the news in 2011 when he sued the Sembawang Town Council for negligence and breach of duty.
The former freelance accountant had slipped and fallen at a sheltered walkway near his home in Sembawang Drive on a rainy day on Aug 26, 2008.
The fall fractured Mr Aw's spine, causing him to be paralysed from the neck down.
Since the fall, Mrs Aw, who works in a bank, became the sole breadwinner. She also had to hire two full-time caregivers to look after Mr Aw, who was bedridden.
"For the first few years, he was in and out of the hospital, but it had been close to four years that he hadn't been hospitalised. That's why his demise is still a shock," she said.
Mrs Aw described her family as a happy one.
"At night, we would set up mattresses in the living room so that we could sleep beside him. My husband and I wanted our children to know that we would always be a family, no matter what happens.
"Even though my husband couldn't walk and talk, he was a good listener.
Whenever my daughters and I had a rough day, we would look forward to coming home to him."
However, they did not expect their time with him to be up so soon.
At about 10am on Saturday, Mrs Aw attended a volunteer programme with her youngest daughter. Before leaving home, the pair kissed Mr Aw on his cheek, something they always did.
Mrs Aw's older daughter had gone to church that morning.
Said Mrs Aw: "He looked well that morning, so I left him in the care of his two caregivers."
But after the programme ended at about 2pm, she received a call from the hospital telling her that her husband had to be resuscitated.
"I was shocked, but I was still calm because he had been in hospital for breathing difficulties just a month ago. I didn't think it would cost him his life," she said, adding that Mr Aw had spent 22 days in the intensive care unit in February.
Mrs Aw then checked her mobile phone and realised there were missed calls from the caregivers.
Sensing that something was wrong, she rushed to the hospital.
"The doctor came out of the room and sat me down. She had a sombre look on her face so I knew that something terrible must have happened," said Mrs Aw.
Choking back tears, she added: "When the doctor told me my husband had died, I was furious at first.
"I felt like he had a fighting chance to live if they hadn't given up on him so easily.
"When I saw my husband's body cleared of all the life-support equipment, I felt lost for the first time in my life. At least when he was paralysed, I could still see his face and feel his presence beside me.
"I regretted not being by his side in his last moments.
"He was such a good husband and a loving father. I don't know what to do now that he's not around."
Mr Aw was cremated yesterday morning.
"My daughters hated attending his wake because they hated to see their father's body just lying there. It's unusual for them to see him so expressionless," said Mrs Aw.
"We are still struggling to cope with the loss. It's so hard coming home to his empty bed in the living room."
Lawsuit against town council was 'resolved'
On a rainy evening on Aug 26, 2008, Mr Aw Kian Chow was walking back to his flat in Block 415, Sembawang Drive, when he fell on a sloping ramp near his block.
The 3m-wide walkway slopes 1.5m to 2m above ground over a distance of 20m.
As a result of the fall, Mr Aw fractured his spine and became paralysed from the neck down. Three years after the incident, he was bedridden, unable to speak, needed life support equipment and full-time caregivers.
In 2011, he sued the Sembawang Town Council for allegedly failing to maintain a safe walkway.
The town council, represented by Mr P. E. Ashokan, said the walkway was properly maintained and that its contractor had used the proper material to ensure safety.
Mr Ashokan also added that the council was sympathetic towards Mr Aw for his disability, but it "cannot be held responsible for someone who slips and falls during wet weather".
In February 2013, The Straits Times reported that the suit had come to an abrupt end and lawyers for both parties said the matter had been "resolved" and that the terms were confidential.