SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Gently, quietly and with an aching heart, his wife tells him: You are going to be a dad again.
His response: Silence.
The only sounds are those of the nurses going about their rounds, and patients talking to their loved ones.
Whether Mr Lee Kar Choon, 23, heard her is something his wife still does not know as he has been unconscious for the past month.
Mr Lee, a Malaysian who works as a production supervisor in Woodlands, fell into a coma after his motorcycle was hit by a falling tree in Admiralty Road West on July 20.
He suffered multiple skull and facial fractures and was in the intensive care unit of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for 14 days.
He was moved to a normal ward only about two weeks ago.
Mr Lee and his wife, Madam Chai You Yuet, also 23, have been trying for a second child, who would be a companion for their two-year-old daughter, Katherine.
Two weeks ago, Madam Chai found out she was pregnant.
The housewife said in Mandarin: “It is supposed to be happy news, but it is hard to be happy considering his condition. We have been discussing a second child for a while. He said it doesn’t matter if it is a boy or girl, he just wanted our daughter to have a playmate.”
She added softly: “I’ve been feeling unwell, but I thought it was just fatigue from taking care of him in the hospital.
“I told him as soon as I knew about this new life and how he has to be strong and wake up soon.”
Mr Lee’s accident was first reported in The New Paper last month.
His mother, Madam Yeoh Ooi Lai, 41, a housewife who lives in Ipoh, rushed to Singapore after finding out about it.
Breaking down in tears, she said in Cantonese: “Since his accident, I have been scared so many times.
“My heart, hands and legs were trembling when I hurried to the hospital. Luckily, he survived. But his life is still in danger, and he might become paralysed.”
She has since prayed to countless gods and has decided to trust in her son.
“I’ve been talking to him every day, telling him that he cannot leave his wife and daughter behind. It is even more important now that he wakes up soon, especially since he is going to have a new child.”
The family is also concerned about the medical bill, which has come up to more than $84,000.
Mr Lee’s company will cover $40,000 and the family has been trying to raise funds, but without much success, said Madam Chai.
It is still unclear if they will get any compensation in Singapore. (See report below.)
The National Parks Board and the Singapore Land Authority said the tree is under their purview, and they are investigating the matter.
To save on medical fees, his family members are planning to move him to a hospital in Ipoh. However, they are unsure if he is ready to take an eight-hour ambulance ride.
The couple, who are Ipoh natives, currently rent a house in Johor Baru, and Mr Lee used to make a three-hour daily trip to work.
Mr Lee, who started with odd jobs when he was 17, had been working in Singapore for the past four years. He earned about $1,500 a month.
Madam Chai said her greatest wish is for her husband to regain consciousness.
Their daughter, who is at the hospital every day, is too young to understand her dad’s situation, said Madam Chai.
“She will tell us to be quiet because her dad is sleeping,” she said.
“I just want him to wake up soon. It doesn’t matter if he becomes half paralysed or blind. He can always learn everything again slowly.”
About the accident
Mr Lee Kar Choon was riding his motorcycle on his way to work at a food manufacturing factory in Woodlands Loop on July 20 when he was hit by a falling tree branch.
The Malaysian, who lived in Johor Baru, had just cleared the Woodlands Checkpoint and was five minutes from his workplace.
Police said they received a call for assistance at about 6.40am and found Mr Lee unconscious on the road.
He was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in a Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance.
His brother-in-law, Mr Jonathan Poh, 27, told The Straits Times that it had been raining heavily during the mishap.
Mr Poh understands that Mr Lee was found with a tree “right next to his head” while his motorcycle lay some distance away.
Who is responsible?
If a tree is under the National Parks Board’s (NParks) care and not maintained properly, it may be liable when a branch hits a vehicle or property.
Otherwise, it would be considered an act of God — defined as events caused by natural forces whose effects cannot possibly be prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and foresight.
This means that NParks would not be held responsible.
Checks on fallen branches and trees showed that incidences of fallen branches were due mainly to adverse weather conditions rather than poor health or tree rot, according to the NParks’ website.
As part of NParks’ tree management programme, inspections are carried out along major roads or areas with high human activity at least once every 12 months.
To ensure that trees can better withstand strong winds, NParks will carry out crown reduction pruning.
Since 2003, NParks has been replacing storm-vulnerable trees, such as the Albizia trees, which are known to suffer from pest and disease problems such as root rot.