The New Paper carried, on Saturday, 29 September 2012, the story of the emergency airlift home for Amin Late Abu Taher that took place two days earlier. This story is now archived on the AsiaOne site. Link.


“I hope to see my family”

The New Paper, 29 September 2012, by Benson Ang

For a while, it looked as if he was going to spend his final days here, far from his wife and children in Bangladesh.

But thanks to a hospital and a non-government organisation, the construction worker got to see his family again, for the last time.

Mr Amin Late Md Abu Taher, 44, who was diagnosed with fourth-stage lung cancer and given just a few days, was sent back to Bangladesh on a chartered flight on Thursday.

He died in Bangladesh on Friday after seeing his family.

Mr Amin, who arrived in Singapore around 12 years ago, experienced difficulty in breathing about two weeks ago.

He went to a private clinic, and due to the severity of his symptoms, was referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where he was diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Amin was immediately hospitalised and placed on oxygen support. As he was too ill to undergo chemotherapy, he could only be given morphine to ease his pain.

His condition worsened. By Thursday, both his lungs were failing and he had to be placed on full oxygen support.

There was also fluid accumulating in his lungs and around his heart, and tubes had to be inserted into him to drain the fluids.

Things did not look good for him and Mr Amin had one request: To see his family again.

Through an interpreter, he told The New Paper on Thursday: “Even if I have to die, I hope to see them one last time.”

He is married with four daughters and a son, aged two to 22.

Said Ms Sreyashi Sen, a counsellor who had been helping Mr Amin in the last week: “No commercial flight will accept him as he needs to be on oxygen support.”

Neither could his family fly to Singapore, as they don’t have passports, she added.

Flight back

But TTSH staff got wind that a chartered flight had arrived in Singapore from Bangladesh on Wednesday.

It had carried some VIPs here and was slated to return to Bangladesh – empty – on Thursday night.

Hope Ambulance Service, a private operator which provides ambulance services, had informed TTSH of this flight.

Sensing a chance for Mr Amin to go home, TTSH staff asked him if he would like to return to Bangladesh.

There was just one last problem – the cost.

The hospital was told that a one-way trip on a chartered flight with medical support would cost US$37,000 (S$45,000), a TTSH spokesman said.

The hospital negotiated on compassionate grounds for this figure to be lowered to US$12,500.

Then non-government group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), which helps migrant workers here, offered to pay for the flight.

The group, which was contacted by TTSH, gave the hospital a letter of guarantee on Thursday.

The money would come from a TWC2 fund which is dedicated to paying the medical expenses of migrant workers.

A large portion of this fund was donated by the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.

Said TWC2 volunteer Debbie Fordyce: “(Going) home is his dying wish. We want him to at least be able to die with his wife and children.

“While we are happy to foot the bill, we hope others will step forward to help replenish the funds with donations.”

TTSH also tapped on its own charity fund to pay for Mr Amin’s ambulance transfer to the airport.

The hospital also sourced for oxygen cylinders for him to use on the flight back home.

On Thursday evening, Mr Amin was sent to Seletar Airport.

His flight left at 8.30pm and arrived at Dhaka Airport at 10.30pm, Bangladeshi time.

Before he left, Mr Amin told TNP through an interpreter: “I’m contented to at least be with my family.”

TTSH is happy that it helped a patient realise his wishes, its spokesman said.

“We do what we can, if it’s within our means, to fulfil the last wishes of dying patients.

“It is not always possible and for Mr Amin’s case, it was one (case) where things just fell into the right place,” the spokesman said.

Terminal discharges to a foreign country are not common occurrences, and TTSH’s palliative care service handles only two or three such cases a year, the spokesman added.

One non-government group that plans to raise funds to help offset the cost of Mr Amin’s flight back home is HealthServe, which helps migrants, the disadvantaged and the poor here.

Said its director of community health resource, MrVincent Law: “It goes to show how much we can do if we pool our resources together.

“But this incident also reveals a gap in our healthcare system in that there isn’t much avenue for foreign workers to seek help when they need it.”

Some supporters have already come forward.

Singaporean Henry Soh, who felt sorry for Mr Amin, donated $200 on Thursday to offset the cost of sending him home.

The managing director of a engineer and construction company here had heard about the case through his workers.

He said: “I hope the small amount will help make a difference to his family.”

Mr A K M Mohsin, the editor-in-chief of Bangladeshi newspaper Bangla Kantha which is sold here, visited Mr Amin in hospital just before he left.

Mr Mohsin, who is in contact with the family in Bangladesh, confirmed yesterday that Mr Amin landed safely in Bangladesh and had met his family.

Mr Amin died yesterday afternoon, at 1pm, Bangladesh time.

Said Mr Mohsin: “His last words were that he was very happy to see them again.”

[Footnote by TWC2:  TWC2 wishes to acknowledge with deepest appreciation a large donation by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, which would replenish the outlay from our Care Fund towards the air ambulance.]