Taiwan burn victim’s family feared the worst

Deadly party: Soldiers carrying an injured partygoer to an ambulance after the fire at the water park in Taipei. — EPA

Singapore: Every day for the past month, businessman Joseph Loy would cry in a corner at Block Four of Singapore General Hospital while his daughter Megan Loy fought for her life in a ward upstairs.

The 18-year-old suffered severe burns on 80% of her body after a huge fire broke out at a water park in Taipei on June 27.

Around 1,000 revellers had gathered for the annual Colour Play Asia festival, in which coloured powder was thrown on partygoers.

There was a huge blast when the powder caught fire. Ten people have died and 339 more are still being treated in Taiwan.

Five of Megan’s friends, who suffered 30% to 50% burns, are still hospitalised in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Doctors had earlier said Megan had a one-in-five chance of survival. But last Tuesday, they revealed her skin grafts had been successful so far and her burn wounds had been reduced to only five percent of her body.

“It is a miracle and even the doctors were baffled at the rate of her recovery,” her father Loy, 47, said.

When Megan was flown back to Singapore on June 30, her prospects for recovery were dismal.

Death from infection was a real danger, so she was put on at least five types of antibiotics.

Doctors were worried that the heavy dosage might tax her kidneys, so she was initially hooked up to a dialysis machine.

Skin cells were taken from her scalp to be grown in a laboratory for future transplant. Over the weeks, she went through nine skin grafts and spent over 50 hours in the operating theatre.

Despite the odds, Megan fought on. By day five, she could breathe without a respirator. On day 10, she left intensive care for the high dependency ward.

But for each step forward, there seemed to be a step back. A blood test revealed the presence of a potential flesh-eating bug, though it turned out to be a false alarm.

“It was such an emotional roller-coaster ride that I don’t think I need to go to a theme park in the future,” quipped Loy, who put up a brave front for his daughter.

He also has a 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, with his wife Lim Wee Ping, 47, who works in a bank.

Part of the pain came from watching Megan cope with the trauma.

Some nights she would jolt awake, having dreamt yhat she was in an open field when it became unbearably hot and bright.

She also broke down when she caught a reflection of herself during a video chat with her cousin.

When she asked for a mirror a week after the video chat, her parents braced themselves for a breakdown. Instead, she smiled and said she was looking better.

Megan continues to be on a liquid diet and will wear a pressure garment to protect her newly grafted skin for the year ahead. Rehabilitation and the road to recovery may take up to two years, but she is unfazed.

There were times when she woke up at 4.30am to do physiotherapy exercises.

Last week, however, she started asking her parents the dreaded “why me?” question.

Loy recalled: “We said we did not know why it happened to her because we are not God, but we are grateful because each time she needed help, there was someone.”

Her samaritans include a partygoer who helped carry her to the ambulance. There was also the Singapore doctor who read about Megan’s plight in the newspapers and got in touch with a doctor in Taiwan to get her home.

Back in Singapore, the medical team worked tirelessly to give her round-the-clock care.

Megan, who hopes to study medicine at the National University of Singapore, hopes to work at SGH in the future. She recently received her International Baccalaureate exam results, scoring 42 out of 45.

Loy added: “So for the ‘why me?’ question, maybe there’s a special calling for her in the future as a doctor, for how many doctors out there can say with empathy that they have been on the other side of the fence and dallied with death?”

He then broke into a rare smile.

The past week also marked the first time he did not cry in the corner – a streak he hopes to continue as his daughter wins back her life. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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