SINGAPORE – A 64-year-old man fell from his new wheelchair down a short flight of stairs in front of their flat in Hougang when using a device to convey him down, a coroner’s court heard.
Mr Tan Yik Fay and his family were getting ready to go for a trip to Penang, Malaysia, for Christmas on Dec 20, last year, when the accident happened.
He had been using a wheelchair for about seven years after a stroke which left him paralysed on the left side of his body. He had diabetes and hypertension, and had fallen twice before, in 2011 and 2014, in the bathroom.
At an inquest into his death on Dec 21, the court heard that his wife had recently changed a new wheelchair for him.
The wheelchair was secured to the Stair Aid device when it became detached, causing Mr Tan, who was strapped to his wheelchair, to fall forward. He was responsive after the fall.
He was taken to Changi General Hospital. A physical examination did not uncover any abnormality other than a broken right little finger.
Mrs Tan, who injured her toe while lifting her husband up after his fall, was waiting to see a doctor at the hospital when Mr Tan began to appear to be progressively drowsy.
He was later found to be unresponsive, with a pupil that was dilated and fixed. A computed tomography scan showed that he had traumatic brain injury.
Further investigation showed that Mr Tan’s son, who had attached the wheelchair to the device, conceded that he might not have secured the device correctly or tightly to the Stair Aid. His failure to do so may have led to the detachment of the device, leading to Mr Tan’s fall.
He had lost the detailed instruction manual which came with the device.
In his findings on Monday (June 19), State Coroner Marvin Bay said while the investigations had not uncovered any mechanical fault in the Stair Aid, Mr Tan’s son had conceded to his failing to secure the usual attachment points of the new wheelchair to the device’s mounting points.
As he had difficulty attaching the mounting points with the new wheelchair, he had improvised by using certain attachments on a different part of the wheelchair. This led to Mr Tan’s fall, when his wheelchair suddenly became separated from the Stair Aid.
“In these circumstances, Mr Tan’s demise from the head injury sustained in his fall with his wheelchair, is an unfortunate misadventure,” he said.
The coroner said it would be prudent for caregivers to perform a test-run, with a simulated load, when a new wheelchair is in use.
“A judiciously performed ‘dry run’ can ensure that the device is properly assembled, secured, and functional, before undertaking the carriage of a live patient,” he said.
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