Mum helped her through darkest days
Miss Jean Ling's mum flew to take care of her in New Zealand after accident left her paralysed
When housewife Dieh Ngok Sang said goodbye to her daughter who was leaving for a holiday in New Zealand in 2014, she did not expect the tragedy that followed.
Miss Jean Ling, 34, was travelling around South Island with a male friend in March that year.
The car she was driving skidded and flipped over several times before crashing into a tree in the countryside of Queenstown. This led to her mother rushing over to spend four months with her in the hospital.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day and Miss Ling, whose parents are divorced, knows how much she owes her mother for seeing her through her darkest days. Miss Ling's mother will also be there when she gets married in December.
Miss Ling told The New Paper she was just five minutes from the farm where she was to go horse-riding for the first time when tragedy struck.
"The car's roof was so badly dented, I couldn't see if my friend was in the passenger seat. So I pressed the car's horn to attract attention," said Miss Ling, who used to work in the operations team at Resorts World Sentosa's Dolphin Island.
It worked. Someone came and called for an ambulance.
Miss Ling had three fractured ribs on the left, two on the right, and her spinal cord was severely fractured, leaving her permanently paralysed from the waist down.
She is now an administrative executive for Resorts World Sentosa.
Madam Dieh, 60, who was in Singapore when she received the news, said: "My first reaction was to keep calm. I had to, there was no other option."
Miss Ling was whisked by helicopter to a hospital at Invercargill, a city 190km south of Queenstown, where she was operated on.
She was in the intensive care unit for five days.
She then had four months of rehabilitation in Christchurch at the Burwood Hospital with its spinal specialists.
Madam Dieh said: "I was initially upset about Jean's handicap. But I had to continue living, Jean had to continue living, so I moved on from those feelings."
Miss Ling's treatment and rehabilitation costs, which amounted to more than $500,000, were covered under New Zealand's Accident Compensation Corporation, which covers all residents and visitors to the country.
She said: "It was a real blessing, and I was so thankful."
She was also given a sports wheelchair modified to suit her posture and movements. It is made of carbon fibre, the material used to make aircraft frames. Miss Ling said it would have cost her at least $10,000.
A couple who lived near the hospital housed Madam Dieh without rent, and even lent her their spare car to drive to and from the hospital.
She said: "They were so kind to me. I was very blessed."
In Christchurch, Madam Dieh would wake up at 4am to make and deliver Miss Ling's breakfast. She then returned home to cook and deliver lunch, doing the same for dinner.
Miss Ling said: "I could see my mother lose weight and colour in her face from the lack of sleep and physical exhaustion."
As Miss Ling's fiance has moved in with them, Madam Dieh has it easier but she wakes up at night to help Miss Ling to the toilet.
Madam Dieh said: "I am so proud of my daughter. She is independent and able to face society. She is the noble one here."
'The prettiest girl in a wheelchair'
When Miss Jean Ling, 34, goes out with her fiance, Mr Jake Oh, 27, people stare at them.
But he'll tell her: "It's because you're the prettiest girl in a wheelchair they've ever seen."
Miss Ling, who was previously part of Dolphin Island's operations team at Resorts World Sentosa, is now an administrative executive at the company.
The couple met through mutual friends after the accident.
They have dated for nearly two years and will marry in December.
Mr Oh told The New Paper: "She always thinks of helping others, anyone, even strangers, and that touches my heart."
They plan to visit the accident site in Queenstown in July as she has to go to Christchurch for a medical check-up.
She said: "There will be fear and it will require a lot of courage to face everything all over again, but I want to complete this journey that I couldn't before, and do even more now as a disabled person."
Miss Ling added: "I'm really fortunate to have Jake facing this with me and giving me all the support he can." - LEANNE CHUA