Elderly with swollen legs stuck in flat for more than a year

(Left): Madam Sim (seated) with her sisters (from left): Sim Lee Chuan, 67, and Sim Peck Chuan, 62, and nephew Keith Ng. (Above): The picture of Madam Sim's legs that Mr Ng posted on his Facebook page in a plea for help.
Madam Sim (seated) with her sisters (from left): Sim Lee Chuan, 67, and Sim Peck Chuan, 62, and nephew Keith Ng. PHOTOS: AZIZ HUSSIN, KEITH NG
(Left): Madam Sim (seated) with her sisters (from left): Sim Lee Chuan, 67, and Sim Peck Chuan, 62, and nephew Keith Ng. (Above): The picture of Madam Sim's legs that Mr Ng posted on his Facebook page in a plea for help.
The picture of Madam Sim's legs that Mr Ng posted on his Facebook page in a plea for help.PHOTOS: AZIZ HUSSIN, KEITH NG

Until social workers came and took her to the hospital, 66-year-old Sim Choo Chuan had been stuck in her flat for more than a year.

Her legs were swollen - with some parts rotting away - because of a severe bacterial infection, and she could hardly walk.

What started in 2013 as an open wound on her left calf about the size of a 50-cent coin soon became raw, pus-filled wounds all over the bottom half of the leg, down to the toes. Her right leg was not spared either. The wounds stank and her appetite suffered so much she lost 30kg in two years. Still, the retiree refused medical attention.

"I was afraid they would amputate my legs," said Madam Sim.

 

Having failed to persuade her to see a doctor, her nephew Keith Ng, a consultant at start-up Gametize, posted a plea on Facebook - together with a picture of Madam Sim's legs.

Within an hour of the post last Nov 20, the Ministry of Social and Family Development contacted Mr Ng, while volunteers from Keeping Hope Alive and Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society visited Madam Sim at her four-room flat. Six hours later, she was in an ambulance, on her way to a hospital.

Since then, she has had stents implanted to improve her blood flow, and her fears of losing both legs proved to be unfounded.

Her surgeon Steven Kum, who was recommended by friends through Facebook, managed to treat her by amputating only her left toes, said Mr Ng, 34.

Madam Sim spent time recovering at The Integrated Building - jointly run by Changi General Hospital and St Andrew's Community Hospital.

In 2013, Madam Sim did seek medical attention at the National University Hospital. But travelling took a toll on her. Also, taxis were too expensive. So she stopped going.

There was also no one at home to look after her. Her husband has dementia and was placed in a nursing home a year ago. Her daughter had married and moved out, her elder son has been in and out of jail for years, and her younger son has mental health issues.

She is glad her nephew finally intervened and got social workers to persuade her to see a doctor. "If he didn't help me, the infection could have spread and become much, much worse," she said.

Kok Xing Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'Glad her nephew intervened'. Print Edition | Subscribe