At a loss over mystery bug

FIRST his wife and 17-year-old son fell sick. Then his daughter, 13, and son, five, became ill too.  

All of them are in hospital, the wife seriously ill with SARS. The two boys have the bug, but perhaps not the girl.  

“I'm in a daze. The past week seems like one long day. I really feel at a loss,” the businessman told The Straits Times over the telephone on Wednesday, describing his family's SARS nightmare. 

He is well, but he has been staying with the youngest child in Tan Tock Seng Hospital's isolation ward for SARS patients. 

His wife of 18 years is in the intensive care unit, one of nine people seriously ill. The two older children are at the hospital's Communicable Disease Centre (CDC). 

Scathing letters in the newspapers have attacked him and his wife for being inconsiderate by sending their children to school. 

Deeply hurt, he said: “My family had not been to Hong Kong, Hanoi or China recently. We did not know anyone who had SARS, so it wasn't as if we were irresponsible and let our children go to school when we knew they had the bug.” 

Given the reaction, he asked that he and his family not be named.  

What triggered things off two weeks ago was his wife's visit to a close friend warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital with dengue fever. 

Lying in bed next to the friend was a staff nurse who had become ill after treating one of the first three SARS victims. 

Five days later, his wife and eldest son developed a fever. Their family doctor prescribed flu medicine. 

“We thought it was the common flu. How was my wife to know that someone with the bug was in the ward?” he asked.  

The next day, he left for London on business. But when he arrived home five days later, he took one look at them and took them to the CDC. It has been downhill since. 

By his son's bedside for four days now, he is in touch with his office by telephone and e-mail from his laptop. 

Asked how he copes each day, he said: “It's hard, very hard. But I cannot complain. 

“I'm separated from my family but I look at the people who have been displaced by war, they must be having a rougher time. 

“So I'm thankful. This episode will hopefully leave just a small scar.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network 

  • Another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network. 

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