Not Letting Disability Stand in the Way


13 July 2015 will forever be etched in the mind of Chemical Industries Employees’ Union (CIEU) member Tan Whee Boon (Photo Source: NTUC This Week)

Some meals can be expensive. For Chemical Industries Employees’ Union (CIEU) member Tan Whee Boon, 50, a nasty meal cost him both his hands and feet.

13 July 2015 will forever be etched in the mind of Mr Tan. On that fateful day, he was hospitalised after showing symptoms of food poisoning traced to a meal of yu sheng (raw fish) he had with a former primary school teacher of his.

While the teacher was alright, the meal triggered off a horrific chain reaction that led to both Mr Tan’s hands and feet being amputated. Though the raw fish is a prime suspect, he said the doctors cited other factors but could not pinpoint the main cause. His case was all over the newspapers, resulting in an outpouring of public sympathy and heightened awareness of food hygiene.

Tough Decision

After lying unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit for about three weeks, he awoke to find both his hands and feet blackened by gangrene. It was Mr Tan’s brave decision to amputate.

“The doctors wanted to observe the gangrene further but I said that if nothing can help, you definitely have to amputate and you must do it as early as possible,” he said.

As a result, both his hands were amputated on 21 August 2015 followed by both feet on 27 August 2015.

Help From The LM Community

Upon hearing of his plight, CIEU moved fast. Mr Tan was a Branch Committee Member at the union’s Singapore Oxygen Air Liquide Pte Ltd (SOXAL) Branch where he was a Technician for 16 years.

The first employee to visit Mr Tan in hospital upon notification by his wife, Mdm Choong Siet Mei, was the CIEU SOXAL Branch Chairman. He quickly notified the company and urged management to conduct fundraising that was done dollar-to-dollar, while the SOXAL Branch Committee encouraged colleagues to contribute.


CIEU leaders visited Mr Tan to assure him that he is not alone and promptly applied for the Singapore Labour Foundation Hardship Grant, NTUC GIFT insurance and the CIEU Hardship Grant for him.

CIEU appealed to CIEU unionised companies, CIEU Branch Officials, NTUC-ARU as well as NTUC affiliates including unions and NTUC Social Enterprises to support the fundraising efforts. The funds will be used to defray Mr Tan’s medical bills and long-term living expenses. NTUC Income is also assisting with $80,000 for the education of Mr Tan’s two children, a daughter aged 15 and a son aged 14.

The union also worked with SOXAL Management to extend Mr Tan’s employment to end-December 2015 after he used up his Hospitalisation Leave entitlement, and negotiated for a medical board-out payment to assist him. He was linked up with his local Member of Parliament Mr Amrin Amin of Sembawang GRC for community welfare support.

Back home now, Mr Tan moves around in an electric wheelchair provided by CIEU and practices daily on his two prosthetic feet with his wife’s help. His two prosthetic hands are being made. His faith keeps him strong and he still has his sense of humour.

In spite of all that he went through, he has no bitterness whatsoever. He said philosophically: “Nobody wants this sort of thing to happen. So when it happens and you cannot change it, then you just accept it. There is no one to blame. I also want to thank CIEU, NTUC and everyone else for all the help that I received.”

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