Flu Watch
Epileptic boy, 13, becomes youngest victim in S’pore to die of H1N1
IT BEGAN with a very mild cough that went away as quickly as it came.
By Desmond Ng
24 July 2009

IT BEGAN with a very mild cough that went away as quickly as it came.

But the 13-year-boy suddenly developed a fever, suffered multiple fits and slipped into a coma.

He never woke up, becoming the youngest victim to die from Influenza A(H1N1) here yesterday.

Another victim who died yesterday was a 55-year-old man who was suffering from motor neuron disease.

He died from severe pneumonia with advanced motor neuron disease and underlying H1N1 infection.

This brings the total H1N1 death tally to three in Singapore as of yesterday.

The boy’s family requested that he be identified only by his first name, Ian.

His uncle, who declined to be named, said Ian’s death came as a shock to the family because it happened so fast and so unexpectedly.

Ian, who had been an epileptic since he was a year old, was admitted to the National University Hospital’s (NUH) paediatric Intensive Care Unit on Sunday.

The cause of his death was status epilepticus (prolonged seizures) with H1N1 infection as a contributing factor.

His uncle said that the family had no idea how and from where Ian had contracted H1N1.

He said: ‘He had a slight cough on Friday. But it wasn’t anything serious.

‘He was okay the next day. His mother monitored his health very closely because every time he was about to fall sick, everybody was put on high alert.

‘Whenever he had a fever, he suffered an epileptic fit. He’d be very tired after that, and he’d sleep.’

Heart stopped

Unfortunately, Ian’s health took a turn for the worse on Sunday afternoon when he developed a fever.

The uncle said Ian’s mother was sponging him when he suddenly had multiple fits.

The family called for an ambulance which took Ian to NUH.

Said the uncle: ‘He was having fits non-stop and his heart also stopped for a while in the hospital. They had to resuscitate him.’

No one suspected it was H1N1, said the uncle, and the family thought it was just a flu bug.

By then, Ian had slipped into a coma and was unable to communicate with his family.

He was diagnosed with H1N1 on Tuesday.

The uncle said that the whole episode was a great shock. He added that Ian’s mother is still having trouble accepting that her only son is gone.

He said that the mother still blames herself – thinking that she should have done more to help him.

He added: ‘But what else could she have done?’

Ian, who was also autistic, attended a special school here.

He had an older sister, who is studying in a polytechnic. The family lives in a HDB flat in the west.

The uncle said that although Ian’s IQ was lower than the average 13-year-old, he was a cheerful, friendly boy who never failed to light up the room.

And because of his special needs, the family doted on him.

Said the uncle: ‘He was very friendly and he would come talk to me whenever I visited and gave me a hug without asking.

‘He’d also tug at my shirt, and if I wanted something, he’d help me take it.’


Ian also loved drawing and had been going for art classes regularly.

Said his uncle: ‘He liked to draw, and he tried to be independent too. His mother even let him go for art classes by himself.’

The boy also travelled regularly with his family for holidays to China, Thailand and Malaysia every year.

Despite his condition, he had no problems playing with children his age in the neighbourhood. Ian liked to play badminton and basketball.

Secondary 2 student Syainie Mohd, 14, said that Ian started joining his friends for badminton at a nearby basketball court in June.

He said: ‘He suddenly appeared one day, ran up to me and said ‘Ah boy, can I play with you?’. So, every time we played badminton, we’d see him running to join us.’

He said that Ian always carried a bag filled with sweets, keropok (crackers), chocolates – along with a badminton racket in one hand and a water bottle in another when he went to the basketball court.

He was usually accompanied by his Indonesian maid, said Syainie.


‘He was generous. He always shared his sweets with us. I am quite shocked he died,’ Syainie said.

Housewife Beth Benedict, 42, said she played badminton with Ian last week.

She said: ‘I’m very surprised and shocked. He seemed fine last week.’

Mrs Benedict, a Filipino expatriate, has lived here for the past 10 years and had known the ‘playful’ boy for the last two.

An Indonesian maid who wanted to be known only as Miss Sofi, 23, described the boy as funny and cute.

Recalling with a chuckle how the boy once made her laugh so hard, she said: ‘I was washing my employer’s car in the carpark one day when he came by to talk to me.

‘He told me to use the newspaper to wipe the car dry when he saw me using a piece of cloth. So smart!’

She added: ‘I’m still shocked that he’s gone already. He’s too young.’


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