“Pa! Pa!” cried out his son, but Siva could not reply

Balasubramaniyan Siva Vadivel lay motionless on his bed as his 10-year-old son cried out to him via video chat, the nurse in the Critical Coronary Care unit holding up the phone, encouraging Siva to speak. “Pa!” the boy kept calling out.

Eventually, tears started rolling down Siva’s cheeks, the pain evident in his eyes. Just months ago a the start of 2020, Siva had been home in India, a healthy father to his two young sons. Who knew his decision to work in Singapore would bring about a fateful turn of events that would change his life forever?

Fate indeed was also on Kanakam’s mind. Like Siva, Gubballa Kanakam is also a migrant worker from India. Sitting up in the hospital ward, Kanakam kept motioning with his finger across his forehead using the one hand he could move.

Kanakam gestures in a video call with his wife

Attempting to communicate the ancient Hindu belief that one’s destiny was written on the forehead, Kanakam wanted desperately to fly home to be with his family again, in case he was to die here before he got the chance to see and hug the ones he loved.

Hale and hearty for many years

Siva and Kanakam were just two of over 50,000 migrant workers who contracted Covid-19 in the dormitories. For a few unfortunate ones, the impact on them and their families will last a lifetime.

Both young, healthy migrant workers from India, Kanakam had been working in Singapore for 16 years, while Siva had only arrived in March 2020, just prior to the Circuit Breaker which resulted in workers being forced to remain in their dormitories to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Many workers who contracted Covid-19 were asymptomatic, like Siva and Kanakam. They never knew, until they tested positive for antibodies, that they had Covid-19.

Siva and Kanakam returned to work in Phase Two of Singapore’s re-opening after our lockdown, happy to finally be able to earn income once again.

Sadly, shortly after, 40-year-old Kanakam suffered from a stroke while at work and Siva, 38, collapsed with a heart attack. Both men did not have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

International studies have shown that Covid-19 can cause serious vascular events during the acute infection, as well as in the post-infectious period. In Singapore, a team of doctors have published an article about healthy adult patients who developed sudden arterial events during their post Covid-19 convalescent period. In the 7 November 2020 report (“Delayed catastrophic thrombotic events in young and asymptomatic post COVID-19 patients”: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11239-020-02332-z), Kanakam was listed as patient #2 and Siva as patient #4.

The doctors suggested that Covid-19 caused the “catastrophic vascular events” as seen in Siva, Kanakam and the other two patients mentioned in the study.

In other words, both men would not have suffered from heart attack and stroke respectively if not for Covid-19.

Siva; bedridden today, with a family and young children in tow

Following his heart attack, Siva was in critical condition and needed to be revived several times. His wife yearned to fly in to be by his side but could not due to passport issues.

He is now on tracheostomy and bed ridden. Siva will need long term caregiver support and will likely not be able to sit in a chair or walk independently again due to severe physical de-conditioning and weakness.

Siva unable to speak in a video call with his wife and son

Siva borrowed money to pay the $5,000 in agent fees, for a job where he earned only around $400. He arrived in March 2020 and worked from July to September before he was suffered cardiac arrest.

He is the only son, with a 70+ year-old father, a wife, and two boys – 10 and 11.

Kanakam; needing a cranioplasty, and unable to speak nor be the same person he was again

Depressed and constantly in a low mood, Kanakam still needs a cranioplasty as a piece of his skull had been removed to reduce the pressure from bleeding in his brain.

He is unable to speak, making only simple sounds and gestures. Doctors say he will never be the same again, or communicate with his family like before. All he can think of is to go home soon.

TWC2’s General Manager Ethan Guo (left) visits Kanakam in hospital. “It was heartbreaking,” he said after seeing the two patients.

Kanakam also has permanent severe right sided weakness with no strength in his right arm and requires physical assistance to stand, as well as to carry out his activities of daily living. He is not able to walk independently and requires physical assistance from a helper as well as with a quad stick.

He has a wife, a 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. His father is a retired farmer. The family was relying solely on Kanakam’s earnings.

Fundraising appeal

Transient Workers Count Too has launched a fundraising appeal that Siva and Kanakam will have the means to take care of themselves and their family when they return home. The link is: https://give.asia/campaign/help-two-migrant-workers-seriously-ill-after-covid-19#/

Our target of $60,000 will be split evenly between Kanakam and Siva. However, Kanakam may leave Singapore very soon and charity laws prevent us from continuing fundraising for a person who is no longer in Singapore, or to send funds to them overseas. Therefore, should Kanakam’s departure date be set prior to the end of this campaign, half of whatever amount raised as of that point will be given to him. This campaign will continue and the additional donations received thereafter will go solely to Siva.

Thank you!

Our donation target was reached within about ten days and before Kanakam returned to India. Thus the two men will each get $30,000.

Thank you for all your support. Siva and Kanakam will be able to afford continuing care and their children should not have their education interrupted.

Left: Siva’s family in Tamil Nadu. Right: Kanakam’s family in Andhra Pradesh

The best case scenario would be for both men to receive at least $30,000 each, which is approximately 1.6 million Indian rupees.

The average monthly household expenses in rural India is around 6,600 rupees. This money can hopefully last them for around 15 to 20 years, until the children are grown up.

Migrant workers have been the largest group of unfortunate victims of Covid-19 in Singapore as the novel coronavirus ripped though foreign worker dormitories. While we were quick to impose quarantine orders, shutting the gates and locking them in, their continued exposure to each other while confined is almost surely related to the high numbers. Among them will be long-term Covid victims.

Let us help Siva and Kanakam fight the good fight against this fate, and not let them and their families fall into poverty and indignity.

To donate: https://give.asia/campaign/help-two-migrant-workers-seriously-ill-after-covid-19#/ UPDATE: As we have reached out target, we have closed the campaign.

12 August 2021: Siva Vadivel passed away on 9 August 2021. He had not left the hospital since he was admitted. TWC2 sent your donations to his widow in Tamil Nadu on 11 August and she has confirmed receipt. Our volunteers who had been keeping in touch with her regularly through all these months have advised her to put the money in a fixed deposit account. In India, fixed deposits give high interest rates of 7 to 8%, which should enable the family to live off the interest and not have to worry about the principal.

Kanakam was stable enough to be repatriated in late January 2021. We sent your donations to his wife the same week and she confirmed receipt. The last update we had was that Kanakam had undergone a second operation after he got home and would be getting speech therapy and physiotherapy moving forward.