Woman on life support after asthma attack

SINGAPORE - She had a sudden asthma attack at home and texted her husband immediately.

"I need u to go to Bok now, get my meds and come back immediately. I cannot talk... having difficulty breathing"

Ms Jessie Hon, 33, an assistant vice-president of a local bank, also sent her husband a list of the medication she needed.

For the next 25 minutes, her husband, who wanted to be known only as Roy, kept constant tabs on her over instant messaging service WhatsApp as he rushed home to Bukit Timah from his office in Ubi.

But the 36-year-old lost contact with his wife as he approached Adam Road.

This incident happened last Tuesday morning, the day that M1 subscribers in various areas of Singapore, including the west, had problems with their 3G connection.

Roy is an M1 subscriber and was unable to receive messages in the 15 minutes that he was travelling from Adam Road to their home.

When Roy reached home, he found his wife lying on the bed, weak and breathless.

He called for an ambulance immediately and administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her until it arrived, Roy told Lianhe Wanbao.

A spokesman for the Singapore Civil Defence Force said it received a call at 11.36am.

When the ambulance arrived, Ms Hon had collapsed and emergency treatment was performed on her on the way to the hospital.

For the past six days, Ms Hon has been in the intensive care unit at National University Hospital, hooked on a respirator.

Second opinion

When The New Paper (TNP) visited the family at the hospital Monday afternoon, they were waiting for doctors to do more tests.

Roy told TNP that his wife had asthma as a child, but the latest attack was quite sudden.

Looking resigned, he said: "I don't know... We'll have to ask the doctors."

A visibly tired Roy said he is not blaming the telco company. M1 declined comment as it is unaware of the incident.

Second opinion

The family has consulted three brain specialists for a second opinion.

If Ms Hon is certified brain-dead, the respirator will be removed and her organs will be harvested for donation.

The couple have a seven-year-old son.

Despite the grim outlook, Roy said he is still hoping for the best, adding: "We are all praying for her. Everyone in the family, her friends, my friends..."

Experts said such attacks are rare and many people outgrow childhood asthma, especially if it is well-controlled from a young age.

Dr Ong Kian Chung, a respiratory specialist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said sudden, severe attacks make up about 10 per cent of all cases.

He said there are two types of asthma attacks - a less severe form which progresses over a few days and an acute, sudden form that could worsen within minutes.

The nature of Ms Hon's asthma condition is unclear.

Dr Hui Kok Pheng, a respiratory specialist in private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said a severe asthma attack may be due to a combination of factors.

Possible causes

What to do

He said: "This includes exposure to an allergic trigger during an episode of flu, in the background of uncontrolled asthma.

"There may not be any warning symptoms. Some people may also underestimate the severity of their asthma."

Symptoms include coughing and wheezing over a few days.

Dr Ong said: "People with a history of asthma should have their medicine with them at all times, especially if they show symptoms."

He added that people with asthma should pay more attention when they show respiratory symptoms.

"In the case of a normal flu, the discomfort is felt in the nose and throat. But in the case of asthma, it is usually tightness in the chest."

Nonetheless, this may be difficult for the lay person to distinguish, Dr Ong noted.

In the case of an attack, Dr Hui recommends administering a Ventolin inhaler (an asthma medication), getting the patient to calm down and getting them to the hospital as soon as possible.

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