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They Went Together
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MUM AND SON DIE 8 MINUTES APART

By Low Ching Ling

IN life, mother and son shared a close bond. And they weren’t separated in death. On Thursday, both died – almost at the same time.

The son collapsed and died of a heart attack at home while his mum, who was in a coma in hospital, died eight minutes later.

Their bodies were cremated on Friday and their ashes scattered at sea, in keeping with Hindu tradition.

For close to a year, Mr N Selvakumar (right), 54, a taxi driver, had visited his gravely ill mother, Madam Muthiah Gnanamal (far right), 81, in hospital nearly every day.

And though she was ill, she could not stop worrying about her son. They had lived together in a four-room flat in Pasir Ris.

Madam Gnanamal, whose husband died two years ago, used to live with another son until he died of a heart attack in January last year. She then moved in with Mr Selvakumar, the fourth of six siblings.

But in May, she was admitted to Changi General Hospital with heart complications. She was there until the day she died.

During her stay, she had her legs amputated because of diabetes.

On Apr 2, the hospital informed the family that Madam Gnanamal had lapsed into a coma. She never woke up from it.

On Wednesday night, Mr Selvakumar left the hospital sometime after 9pm, while his 17-year-old son stayed behind.

TIRED, NO APPETITE

Mr Selvakumar’s daughter, Madam Maria Bhavani Dass, 27, a teacher, recalled: ‘When he arrived home, he told the maid he was very tired and did not have any appetite.

‘He took a Panadol and went to bed. Before that, he called me to ask if I was going to the hospital.’

Then, around 10pm, Madam Bhavani got a call from her aunt.

‘My brother had called from the hospital and said my grandmother was in a critical condition.’

Her aunt had also called her father, but he said he was too tired to go to the hospital.

So Madam Bhavani and her aunt rushed down to the hospital. Together with her brother, they kept vigil through the night.

Around 3am, Madam Bhavani’s handphone rang. It was her father’s handphone number. But it was not him at the other end of the line.

‘It was my neighbour,’ Madam Bhavani said. ‘He said my father had collapsed at home and died.’

She was so shocked, she could not believe it.

‘I started shivering. I didn’t know what to do. I told my aunt, and she called the neighbour again and he told her the same thing.

‘And just as she hung up, the nurse came and told us to go into the room.’

By the time they got there, Madam Gnanamal had died. According to their death certificates, she and her son had died eight minutes apart.

Madam Bhavani, her voice choking with emotion, said: ‘We didn’t know what to do. We just sat down and cried.’

But they soon had to rush down to her father’s home as the police were there.

‘When we arrived there, we saw his body on the floor outside his bedroom.’

According to the maid, she heard a loud noise outside her room around 2.45am. When she came out, she found Mr Selvakumar collapsed on the floor.

‘He had thrown up the noodles he ate the previous day,’ Madam Bhavani said.

The maid tried to lift Mr Selvakumar but he was too heavy, so she ran to the neighbour’s house for help.

‘When the neighbour lifted him, my father gave a gasp,’ Madam Bhavani added.

A coroner’s report said Mr Selvakumar died of a heart attack. But as far as Madam Bhavani knows, her father never had heart problems though he suffered from diabetes.

‘My father and grandmother were very close. Whenever I visited her, she told me to take good care of him. She was very worried for him. They were so close they even ‘went’ together.’

‘It’s been very difficult for the family. Their deaths are a double blow to us.

‘We were all mentally prepared for my grandmother’s death. But my father’s death came as a huge shock. Until now, I’ve yet to accept it,’ Madam Bhavani said.

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