Cabby fights disease for 6 years to put son through school

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Six years ago, doctors gave him three months to live after diagnosing him with liver cirrhosis, scarring of the liver.

Despite his illness, he continued working as a taxi driver, pulling 12-hour shifts daily to support his family.

Mr Tan Chon Siang, 49, outlived his doctors' predictions.

He even thought he had a solution to save his life when doctors from the National University Hospital (NUH) called to say they found a match for him to undergo a liver transplant.

Hopes of being able to continue providing for his family and see his only child, Elvis, 24, graduate from Kaplan in April, were raised.


But in a cruel twist of fate, Mr Tan died last Tuesday, four days after his eight-hour long operation.

"It was so sudden," said Mr Tan's older brother, Mr Tan Chon High, 50.

The hawker assistant said: "On the first day after the operation, my brother's condition was very good. He could talk and wave.

"I even thought he could be out of the Intensive Care Unit in three to four days."

On the third day, doctors told Mr Tan that his brother was not responding well to the new liver and his kidneys were starting to fail.

He had dialysis eight times a day.


Mr Tan Chon High said: "On Monday morning, Chon Siang could still speak, but very softly.

Then, he slipped into a coma and on Tuesday morning, he died."

Mr Tan said they do not know the cause of death, but it could have been an infection.

"Chon Siang wanted to earn money to pay Elvis' university fees," said Mr Tan.

"Even though he earned only $30 to $40 a day because of his sickness, he would never spend a single cent on himself."

Mr Tan's friend from their army days, Mr Jack Choo, told The New Paper: "He was very happy when he told me he received the call from the hospital after waiting six years."

Mr Choo, who is also a taxi driver, said: "We ate lunch together from Monday to Friday and our friends and I could see his body weakening, but Ah Nok (Mr Tan's nickname) never once complained about pain."

Mr Choo said Mr Tan had to work shorter hours due to his deteriorating health.

Mr Tan's death has left a big hole in his family's and friends' hearts.

Mr Choo recalled an incident when he got into an accident and sprained his neck and Mr Tan helped him.

"Ah Nok would always be a phone call away. He'd fetch me anywhere I wanted to go and never say no," he said.


Mr Choo said Ah Nok doted on his son. Ah Nok's wife works as a part-time promoter.

"Whenever his son called, he would be very happy and leave to fetch him from wherever he was," said Mr Choo.

Mr Tan said: "Until today, I cannot sleep well. Whenever I close my eyes, I start to feel pain and sadness. It'll take some time to get over his death."

Mr Choo said: "We'll miss him and we still think about him.

"Now, it'll be quieter during lunch because there's one less person at the table."