Singapore man in coma returning from Tokyo after daughter raises $250k online

Ms Cheong's father had a heart attack in Tokyo and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Toho University Omori Medical Center on April 19, 2017.
Ms Cheong's father had a heart attack in Tokyo and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Toho University Omori Medical Center on April 19, 2017. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GIVE.ASIA

SINGAPORE - The Singaporean who had a heart attack and lapsed into a coma in Tokyo just over a week ago is due to arrive in Singapore on Tuesday (May 2).

The team from EMA Global, the medical assistance company appointed for the evacuation, has left Singapore for Tokyo, a spokesman for EMA Global told The Straits Times on Monday (May 1).

His 25-year-old daughter, Ms Eileen Cheong, had successfully raised $250,000 on fundraising platform Give.Asia to get her father home to Singapore.

She wrote in her campaign that her family had flown to Tokyo on April 19 to celebrate her mother's cancer remission when her father had a heart attack.

He was resuscitated and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Toho University Omori Medical Center on the same day and placed on mechanical support.


Japanese doctors told her family that they could not determine how long her father would stay in a coma.

Ms Cheong wrote that her dad's travel insurers MSIG informed her family that they were "unlikely to have a successful claim as his collapse was attributable to a pre-existing heart condition".

The 25-year-old, who is a fresh graduate earning less than $3,000 a month, turned to crowdfunding to get her father home.

And the Internet delivered - raising enough through Give.Asia and privately to get Ms Cheong's father medically evacuated.

The Straits Times tried to contact Ms Cheong but she has declined comment.

A spokesman for EMA Global, however, told ST that the team bringing Ms Cheong's father home consist of a doctor and a nurse who are trained in critical care and have extensive experience in aero-medical missions.

The air ambulance deployed has the range to fly Ms Cheong's father from Haneda Airport to Seletar Airport without any fuel stops, and is equipped with an ICU ventilator, multiple modular monitors and infusion pumps.

The team will visit Ms Cheong's dad in the Tokyo hospital and prepare him for the flight, ensuring he is stable before shifting him into an ambulance.

The team, which is scheduled to land in Singapore on Tuesday, will be met by an ambulance on the tarmac in Singapore, which will then transfer Ms Cheong's dad to hospital.

Ms Cheong had said in a campaign update on Friday (April 30) that her father was in stable condition. She thanked all contributors and donors and promised to post an update on the situation soon.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously told ST that it was aware of the incident and that the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo was rendering the necessary consular assistance to the family.

A spokesman for MSIG told ST on Tuesday (May 2) that most travel insurance policies in the market do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. 

"Ms Cheong has shared in her post that her father was diagnosed with heart failure in 2012 and has an implanted cardioverter defibrillator inserted to prevent sudden cardiac death. Unfortunately, this is a pre-existing medical condition which means it is excluded from his insurance cover," said the spokesman.

However, MSIG added that its travel emergency provider has been in touch with Ms Cheong and they have extended the travel policy cover for Ms Cheong and her three family members, so they can focus on taking care of Mr Cheong.

"We will be rendering every assistance possible to help her further including her claims submission related to travel disruption," said the spokesman.

A close friend of Ms Cheong's, who has been handling her correspondences, told ST on Tuesday that the family has declined to speak to press.

"The family will be making their way back to Singapore shortly. As you can imagine, the past two weeks have been very difficult for Eileen and her mum, and they know that things aren’t going to be easy moving forward," she wrote.

"Therefore, as much as they appreciate your good intentions, I would like to ask for some space and privacy on their behalf, as the family try to come to terms with what has happened and figure out their next steps."

She added that updates on Mr Cheong's condition and medical costs incurred will be provided on Ms Cheong's Give.Asia page.

Additional reporting by Toh Wen Li