$88k raised for couple air-ambulanced back to Singapore for Covid-19 treatment

Mr Abdul Rashid Sahari was flown back from Jakarta on Dec 7, 2020. PHOTOS: FAMILY OF ABDUL RASHID SAHARI

SINGAPORE - Mr Abdul Rashid Sahari and his wife Madam Safiah Rawi Abed had planned to fly home to Singapore this month from Jakarta, where Mr Rashid works, to celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary with their daughters and grandchildren.

Never did they expect to have to make the journey back separately - and by air ambulance.

The couple contracted Covid-19, with Mr Rashid, 64, becoming severely ill. Both were evacuated to Singapore on Dec 7 and Dec 8 for urgent medical treatment.

While Madam Safiah, 56, has recovered, Mr Rashid is still in intensive care at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Health said that while the two were treated in Singapore, they are not counted in the official Covid-19 numbers as they tested positive overseas. This is in line with World Health Organisation guidelines that countries should only count cases in their jurisdictions so as to avoid double counting, said MOH.

Mr Rashid's symptoms began with the usual fever and cough. He deteriorated quickly to the point where Indonesian doctors recommended intubation to help him breathe.

The couple's son-in-law Haikel Fahim, 34, told ST: "Despite him feeling really sick, he was not admitted to hospital when he went to the clinic in Jakarta on Dec 1."

Mr Rashid, who has a history of high blood pressure, has been working in Indonesia for more than 20 years. He is currently employed as a quality control officer at a power plant in Jakarta.

Madam Safiah, who is a permanent resident originally from Indonesia usually based in the Republic, went over to visit him in February with the family and decided to stay on with him in Jakarta.

Mr Rashid was eventually warded in a private hospital in Jakarta on Dec 3, a week after he tested positive for the virus on Nov 27.

"It was really stressful the first day my father-in-law was warded, because we couldn't get through to the hospital he was in or speak to the doctor in charge," said Mr Haikel, who works in public relations.

"We also worried about my mother-in-law, who was also Covid-19 positive, and was now alone at home.

As his condition continued to worsen, the family had to make the snap decision to get Mr Rashid back to Singapore.

"We made an urgent appeal on social media asking if anyone knew how we could get him back, because obviously a commercial flight couldn't take him as he had Covid, and by that point he was already on oxygen,"Mr Haikel said.

The family eventually found a company, Hope Ambulance, that was able to transport the couple with a private jet retrofitted with the appropriate medical equipment.

Mr Rashid was flown back on Dec 7, the day he was meant to fly back for his anniversary. Madam Safiah followed the next day, also in an air ambulance.

Madam Safiah was flown back on Dec 8, 2020. PHOTO: FAMILY OF ABDUL RASHID SAHARI

The family estimate that the cost of the evacuation and subsequent treatment is $85,000, with the air ambulance flights alone costing $67,000.

The family made an appeal on a blog by Mr Haikel that details the couple's experiences for help to cover the costs of the medical evacuation and what they have been told will be along process of rehabilitation for Mr Rashid. He will need a lot of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, said Mr Haikel.

Since the blog went up on Sunday (Dec 13), the family has raised more than $88,000. They said any excess will be donated to charity.

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