S’porean man’s leg amputated after centipede bite

Posted on 28 March 2012

Flesh-eating bacteria to blame.

And then there was none.

Tan Khian Seng, a 56-year-old man, was wearing his Crocs shoes at about 5 a.m. one fine morning on Sept. 23 last year.

After he put his right foot into his shoe, he felt an insect bite him on his sole.

Shrugging it off, he sent his son to school and went back home to sleep.

In the afternoon, he noticed the two bite wounds, which were from a centipede, had swelled to the size of two sunny side-up eggs.

The flesh was turning black and it smelt of rotting flesh.

At the National University Hospital, he was diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, an infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria.

When doctors told him he had to get his whole leg amputated, Tan said he needed time to think about it.

He was subsequently warded because the functioning of his liver, kidneys and spleen were affected by the poison coursing through his body.

He went to Tan Tock Seng Hospital after he was discharged from NUH 10 days later to get a second opinion about what to do with his leg. And the doctors advised him to amputate it from the knee down.

He said he needed time to think about it again.

After a month, he agreed to it as by this time, his leg below the knee was dead, had maggots and was “basically stinking up the entire ward”.

In October last year, he bade goodbye to his leg.

Doctors are still unsure what led to Tan’s infection as centipedes don’t carry flesh-eating bacteria.

What is known is that Tan has been a diabetic for 20 years and his immune system is naturally weaker.

But the motivational speaker has since had a prosthetic leg fitted and is recovering.

This will probably give him more things to talk about because when life gives you lemons, you put them in your mouth and pucker up or make lemonade.

This is a 60-second reduction of the original article published in The Straits Times on March 26, 2012.

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Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

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