A premature baby who survived a road accident that killed her mother is healthy and in a stable condition, after doctors raced to extract her in an emergency caesarean section, said family members.
Ms Goh Chieh Ting, 25, was six months pregnant when she was hit by a lorry last Saturday.
She and her mother-in-law were holding hands as they crossed a road in Jurong West Avenue 1 at 8am, on their way to the market after breakfast. This was when the lorry driver drove out from a carpark and turned right. Even though the driver slammed on the brakes, he was unable to stop the vehicle in time and Ms Goh was hit.
Bloodied and unconscious, she was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where she died at 9.30am due to severe head injuries. But her daughter was saved.
"The baby is healthy and large for her age," said Madam Yau Siew Mek, 64, Ms Goh's grand-aunt.
24-week-old foetus can survive
Babies of pregnant women who die suddenly can be saved by a peri-mortem caesarean section.
"Medical professionals will try to get the baby out as soon as possible," said Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.
An emergency caesarean section can be carried out on the spot or wherever medical professionals can work, he said.
The key is to give the baby a supply of oxygen - which is cut off when the mother dies. It is important to deliver the baby within five minutes of the mother's death to prevent brain damage, he added. If the mother is alive but in critical condition, she will be taken to an operating theatre where doctors will try to save both lives.
Dr Chong was responding to queries following news that doctors at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital last Saturday delivered a baby from the victim of a fatal road accident.
Ms Goh Chieh Ting, 25, was six months pregnant when she was hit by a lorry. It is not clear if she had died at the point of the delivery.
Medical literature shows foetuses of about 24 weeks can survive. To safeguard their health, it is key to take them to a neo-natal intensive care unit, where a supply of oxygen and nutrition is provided. A surfactant should be given to help the baby develop lungs quickly, as the baby is usually undeveloped at that age.
"Usually, babies that weigh at least 700g, with healthy organs, will be able to survive," said Dr Chong.
A six-month-old foetus would weigh about 900g.
"Family members have been to see the baby and have told her to be strong. She is still in hospital and under observation, but we are not sure when she will be out or who will care for her," added Madam Yau, who broke down when she found out about the accident.
The 46-year-old male driver has been arrested for causing death by negligence, said the police.
Yesterday evening, close to 100 of Ms Goh's friends and relatives turned up at her wake in Jurong West to pay their respects.
Many of them rushed down from different parts of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, where Ms Goh was from.
Relatives told The Straits Times that she had been living in Singapore for at least five to six years, and got married just last year.
In a video posted on Facebook, she and her husband were in Taiwan for a visit over the new year, and Ms Goh penned wishes on a banner that read: "May the family be healthy."
At the wake last night, her grieving husband and mother declined to speak to the media.
Ms Goh's mother-in-law, who lived with her near the site of the accident, has been distraught and crying non-stop, said Madam Yau.
One of Ms Goh's cousins, who declined to be named, said: "We are thankful to the doctors at Ng Teng Fong Hospital for making the quick decision to save the baby."
They performed the caesarean section and saved the baby in the emergency room.
An aunt, who last saw Ms Goh in Johor Baru when they were visiting relatives during Chinese New Year, said "she had been a very filial and obedient child", before she was overcome by grief and unable to continue speaking.
"She was always very friendly, approachable and bubbly," said Mr James Liaw, 36, who is an uncle of Ms Goh. "Things are not going to be the same without her around."
Ms Goh's funeral will be held today, said her relatives, adding that the unusually short wake was due to her youth and the Chinese belief that her elders cannot mourn "too long" for her.