Straddling The Line Between Life and Death
At the tender age of 23, Nadiah Binte Mat Ithnin, a young mother to a two-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, was involved in a horrific hit-and-run accident that left her straddling the line between life and death. In a split second, all her life plans were put on hold.
She was on her way to work when a lorry crashed into her motorcycle at a traffic junction, leaving her unconscious on the road.
“The traffic light turned green, so I proceeded to turn right. However, the lorry on the other side of the road didn’t stop. It dashed past the light and the lorry banged into my motorcycle.” she recalls.
The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital. She had just surfaced from a three-day coma to find that her leg was broken and face disfigured — she suffered several facial fractures and a broken jaw, which completely shattered her confidence.
To make matters worse, the initial facial reconstruction surgery she underwent (while in a coma) would leave her in chronic pain for the next 10 years. After the long years of physical and psychological pain, she had almost given up hope.
Credit: Anna Shvetz / Pexels
10 Years Of Chronic Pain With No End In Sight
Nadiah’s first facial reconstruction surgery left her in so much physical pain which made daily tasks even more frustrating for Nadiah. With the aid of crutches, she had to learn to walk again, something that she never had to consciously learn.
She also felt a shooting pain in her face whenever she showered with warm water. Scared of exposing her face to high temperatures due to the facial metal implants she had which were sensitive to heat, she even resorted to taping her eyes before showering and wearing goggles whilst cooking to try and minimize the pain.
“After the accident, I couldn’t accept myself. I looked and felt different.” Nadiah shared. She was also self-conscious and unsatisfied with her looks because her eyes were droopy after the surgery. Her eyes were so sensitive to light that she was scared to leave her home even when it was slightly sunny outside.
“People always say that true confidence comes from within, but sometimes we also need a physical boost to get the ball rolling. It’s hard to keep your chin up when you don’t even feel like yourself,” says Nadiah.
As each day passed, her pain kept increasing gradually and she could barely look at herself in the mirror. Even after visiting multiple clinics, she never got an answer for her chronic pain and facial disfiguration — specifically the droopiness in her eyes. Instead, she was faced with referrals after referrals.
“I almost gave up; there just didn’t seem to be a solution. But I had to be mentally tough for my children.”
Finally A Saving Grace & An End To The Pain
A prototype of the 3D printed patient-specific implant adapted from Osteomesh, one of Osteopore’s products, which imitates the placement of the implant in Nadiah’s eye area.
With her family’s support, she decided to try going back to the hospital to see if anything could be done about her eye and the chronic pain. She was determined to get better so that she could go back to living more actively and confidently.
Nadiah was finally referred to Dr Stephanie Young, the Director of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Eagle Eye Centre, and a Visiting Consultant at National University Hospital Singapore (NUH).
Dr Stephanie Young quickly realised that the problem lay in something none of her previous doctors had noticed before, the ill-fitted titanium implant in Nadiah’s orbital bone. The implant was not providing sufficient support and structure for Nadiah’s eye which led to her excruciating pain and caused her left eye to appear sunken.
After her traumatic experience with the initial titanium implants, Nadiah did not wish to have more permanent implants inserted into her body. This prompted Dr Stephanie Young and her team to find an alternative solution.
Dr Young suggested using a customised, 3D printed bioresorbable implant from Osteopore that would not only fit Nadiah’s face perfectly but would eventually be broken down and gradually absorbed into the body; becoming indistinguishable from her actual bone, unlike permanent titanium implants.
If the surgery proved to be successful, it would free her from not just physical discomfort, but also the psychological wounds that had been haunting her for the last ten years.
“My family was also constantly supporting me — they motivated me to focus on my treatment and get better so that we can do more things together as a family.”
A Strong Support System On The Road To Recovery
Nadiah and her family.
Juggling between parenting duties as a young mother and taking time to heal during the long and arduous road to recovery was no easy feat, but Nadiah made it work. She would schedule her frequent check-up appointments and scans during the time her children were at school.
Even when she was recovering from her broken leg, she would send her son to school, walking the 15-minute distance between her home and her son’s nursery school, instead of taking the bus so that she could spend more time with him.
The accident also took a toll on her family’s finances. Since she was unable to work while recovering from the accident, her husband had to compensate by working longer hours at night.
Six months after her accident, she started her online business selling make-up products on Facebook to help make ends meet. She wanted to work from home so that she could take care of her children while still earning an income.
Nadiah’s husband was very patient throughout the whole ordeal. “I was going through a difficult time and he was very understanding and gave me time to process everything while still supporting me emotionally. I was very lucky. ”
A New Lease On Life
Nadiah (left), and Dr Stephanie Young (right) at Osteopore’s office in 2021. Credit: Osteopore
After her first implant replacement surgery with Dr Young, Nadiah looks and feels like a different person. She has plans to go back to work, after her next surgery with Dr Young to fix the outer appearance of her eye.
Through the whole ordeal, Nadiah has learnt to appreciate her family and friends much more. Nadiah acknowledges that she has gone through and endured a lot, which allowed her to learn the importance of perseverance. “I took one step at a time and eventually, I got somewhere.”
With each day Nadiah slowly builds her confidence and has since started to find joy and self-satisfaction in dressing up and even enjoys being in pictures much more than before. This was something she never thought possible after her accident.
“I want to let similar victims know to never give up, especially when all hope seems lost. Mental health and body confidence issues are real, but having the right support and community, you will find a solution.