Never had I felt so isolated and alone.
A freak accident in Kyoto led to many heart-warming offers of help from strangers and friends. It was peak autumn season and my friend and I were walking towards the Kyoto Imperial Palace. A lady cyclist was heading towards us. My scarf was somehow caught in her bicycle and I was pulled along in the bicycle’s direction. I lost my balance and fell very heavily on the pavement. I felt a sharp pain and could not move for a prolonged period of time. In the hospital, X-rays showed that I had fractured my right femoral neck, and according to the doctor, ‘the worst possible place to have a fracture’.
I was terrified and in agonising pain. Even though the doctor could speak some English, I struggled to understand him and googled for information of the emergency operation that he proposed. Little did I imagine that my trip would have ended up with me signing the papers for a surgery to insert 3 screws to hold my thigh bone together. When I regained full consciousness, I was greeted with the news that I had to be hospitalized for at least 3 weeks to relearn how to walk. I was dismayed to be hospitalized in a foreign land with no family and friends and very basic knowledge of the Japanese language. The pain kept me up at night. Never had I felt so isolated and alone.
5 years ago, I represented Singapore in a youth exchange programme, The Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP). When the SSEAYP alumni knew of my hospitalization, Japanese friends travelled for a few hours just to see me. Alumni members that I have never met before also visited, bringing their friends along. Knowing that I had limited belongings, they brought me functional stuff, such as clothes and toiletries as I strived to adapt to a foreign hospital culture.
Shortly after my accident, my friend, Rae Mok, contacted the Singaporean students’ association in Japan and a message about my accident was sent out to Singaporean university students in Kyoto. I was initially apprehensive at the thought of receiving strangers, despite the absolute boredom of my long hospital stay. It turned out that my reservations were completely unfounded as we connected over our local slang. Jayden Liu and Ng Chun Poh brought me out in my wheelchair to eat sushi via the local trains, and when we were daunted by the long flight of stairs leading to the sushi restaurant with no lift in sight, they gamely carried me up with my arms around their shoulders. Another university student, Clifton Ong, brought me out to a cat café using the local buses when he knew that I love cats. His friend, Mavis Aoki, another Singaporean, offered to bring me out for a meal with her friend, Belinda, when she knew of what happened.
I am truly deeply grateful to these strangers and friends who reached out to me in my time of need.