AN ELDERLY couple died within a few days of each other after contracting chicken pox from their grandsons.
Mr Lee Soon Hai, 71, died early yesterday morning – four days after his wife Chia Oei Nai, 65.
The couple had been looking after their two grandsons, one aged four and the other four months, who contracted chicken pox about two weeks ago. They would usually babysit them while their parents were at work during the day.
The couple, who have eight grandchildren, claimed to have contracted the virus before.
Not long after the babysitting, Madam Chia said she felt unwell, and was suffering from stomach pains and breathlessness. A few small, dark-coloured blisters also welled up on the top of her head and around her face.
Her eldest daughter, Madam Lee Ai Moy, said in Mandarin: “We didn’t realise she had chicken pox as the marks didn’t look like chicken pox.”
A visit to a family doctor also did not shed light on the fact that Madam Chia had the virus.
It was only when the symptoms worsened on July 25 that her daughters decided to take her to the Singapore General Hospital. She was admitted and a blood test later confirmed she had the virus. Last Wednesday – three days after she had been admitted – she lost consciousness in the intensive care unit and died.
Her husband of over 45 years visited the hospital to spend her last moments with her, even though he too was suffering similar symptoms at the time.
A day after her death, Mr Lee was so weak that he had to be admitted to Tan Tock Seng hospital, where he died three days later.
“They were quite close, he must have wanted to go with her,” Madam Lee told The Straits Times tearfully at the double-wake in Bedok yesterday.
“It’s very heartbreaking to lose two parents in a week.”
She said both of them were relatively fit, and would cycle to and from the market every day.
Chicken pox, a common childhood disease, is usually more severe in adults. This is because a key immune response – cell-mediated immunity, which involves searching for viruses and destroying them – weakens with age.
This can lead to complications like pneumonia and encephalitis – inflammation of the lungs and brain respectively – which are potentially fatal, especially among the elderly.