Desmond was told he would never walk again - in 2014 he took a solo road trip around New Zealand

Stories from our patients, Desmond and Brinda, who pulled through with the tireless support of our healthcare teams.

It was just another trip for Desmond Lim, an avid globetrotter who had seen the world as an air steward. Together with three friends, he embarked on a month-long motorcycle road trip to Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. However, on their return journey, tragedy struck.

“While I was waiting at the traffic light, a truck ran over me and drove off. I lay there for six hours – fully conscious – before the ambulance finally came,” Desmond recalled.

The accident left him with a badly crushed right pelvis, fractured left leg and spinal fractures. Desmond was flown back to Singapore, where he spent the next ten months warded at Singapore General Hospital (SGH). Doctors said he would never walk again.

“I was used to flying around the world. Then, I was told that I would never be able to walk. Whenever nurses or doctors tried talking to me, I would silence them by asking, ‘Are you able to help me walk again?’ Everything was negative to me.”

Things took a turn for the better when he was transferred to Bright Vision Hospital (BVH) for rehabilitation.

“I felt that I shouldn’t give up because people were not giving up on me, especially my family and the staff at BVH. The cheerful nurses helped me out of depression and my physiotherapist, Firdaus Zin, was very patient with me despite my grumpiness. I am especially thankful to the wound nurse who meticulously tended to my pressure sores every day,” said Desmond.

Wanting to walk on his own again, Desmond pushed himself hard during his rehabilitation exercises. By September 2014, though he still needed a walking stick to get around, he felt he was ready to challenge himself – by taking a road trip around New Zealand on his own.

“I’ve seen disabled people do amazing things, so I thought there’s no harm trying. I had been run over by a truck – nothing worse could happen to me!”

On the three-week road trip, he drove around New Zealand in his camper van, trekking, fishing, and glacier watching along the way – proving to himself and everyone else that he was capable of taking care of himself. 

With one wish fulfilled, Desmond set himself another goal – to qualify for the ASEAN Para Games. He now trains after work, with fellow swimmers from the Singapore Disability Sports Council.

Having overcome his health challenges, Desmond feels the need to help others in a similar predicament. He is currently looking to set up a trauma support group to help those who face sudden physical disability.

“Through my personal experience, I want to show fellow trauma patients that they can lead normal lives, just like me.”

Brinda won her fight against cancer

A professional counsellor, Brinda Kumari Shanmugam Naidu touches the lives of many people by helping them deal with their issues. In 2012, she found herself having to apply what she does professionally to her personal life, when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer.

After surgery, Brinda received treatment at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS). Her journey to recovery was extremely difficult and emotional. With a gregarious personality, it was challenging for Brinda to cope with her illness and the changes it had on her lifestyle.

“My life came to a standstill. I could not go to work. I was so weak, I could barely lift my head.”

Weakened by the debilitating side effects of treatment, on top of not being able to move her left shoulder and arm, she broke down in front of Dr Wong Fuh Yong, her radiation oncologist.

“I was worried that I would never be able to get my body in the correct position on the monstrous machine. Dr Wong consoled me and reassured me. He is the kindest doctor I have ever met.”

Life dealt Brinda another bad hand and she had to battle with the difficult decision to have her ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix removed.

“Cancer mutilated my body and stripped me of my courage. However, I refused to serve up my dignity to it. I am more than the scars on my body. I am perfect in my imperfections. Whatever is inside my body and whether I can bear children or not, doesn’t make me any less a woman.”

While her battle with cancer was arduous, Brinda was grateful for the care she received.

“My care team was just amazing! I can’t thank them enough. Words are not sufficient, because they gave me my life back,” said Brinda. Her loving parents, both retired nurses, cared for her tirelessly at home. Her family and friends provided much support and understanding. Her medical oncologist, Assoc Prof Toh Han Chong, Senior Consultant and Deputy Director at NCCS, gave her empathy and care.

“He took me seriously. He always makes the effort to answer my queries. I feel safe because I know I am in trustworthy hands.”

“Once I bumped into Prof Toh after my chemotherapy session. I will never forget the look of compassion he gave me. I felt that he connected with me then and understood my pain.”

Expressing gratitude for Nurse Flordeliza Garcia Barnacha, Brinda said, “She was my first chemotherapy nurse. She was infinitely gentle and caring, tending to my needs and even taking time to reassure my elderly parents who accompanied me. She understood my fear of needles and would hold my hands, telling me she was with me. She was an angel.”

Today, Brinda is living her life to its fullest. A Public Service 21 (PS21) Distinguished Star Service Award recipient, she has since returned to work and draws strength from writing poetry.

A local a capella group, Budak Pantai, was inspired by her tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and wrote a song using her poem as lyrics. The song was performed at the Budak Pantai and Friends Charity Concert in aid of the National Kidney Foundation at the Esplanade in June.

“I am privileged to be alive. Life is never meant to be easy. There will always be challenges and disappointments. Yet, there are also opportunities, possibilities and hope.”