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Everyone's darling, for a reason

INDOMITABLE SPIRIT: Secondary-school student Yvonne, 14, was helping out at her father's drinks stall when her right hand got caught in a sugarcane juicer. Two operations later, she has regained much of her cheerful self.
Everyone's darling, for a reason

SEVERE INJURIES: The sugarcane juicer crushed three fingers and tore off the skin on Yvonne's wrist. Her right index and middle fingers could not be saved.


    Jan 13, 2014

    Everyone's darling, for a reason

    HER story has touched a nation and it is not hard to see why.

    When The New Paper On Sunday visited Yvonne Tan Li Xuan in Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Tuesday, it was not her on the bed.

    Instead, it was her father, Mr Tan Guan An, 50, who was huddled up under the white hospital sheets, sleeping.

    Yvonne sat on a chair with a mobile phone and a pair of headphones, plugged into her own world.

    The cast on her right hand is the only reminder of the gruesome accident last month.

    The 14-year-old has been through much since three fingers of her right hand were crushed by a sugarcane juicer. The skin on her wrist was also torn off.

    Two operations later, including one that lasted 12 hours to transplant a toe onto her hand, Yvonne has regained much of her cheerful self.

    It was her idea to let her father have the bed, as he was exhausted from his steadfast vigil beside her.

    Mr Tan and his wife, as well as their two elder children, have been taking turns to look after Yvonne.

    But that is not a surprising thing to do for your daughter, who spent the last two years helping your business after school or during her free time.

    "I want to help (at the stall) so that it is not so tough on my father," Yvonne said.

    Hawkers at the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Food Centre, where the accident happened, speak of her fondly.

    Madam Ooi Eng Kiao, 61, who runs a dessert stall there, said: "She's such a responsible girl. At such a young age, she already knows how to help her parents out. That's why we treat her like a darling."

    When asked if work at the drinks stall is tiring, Mr Tan said he does not really need help from his children.

    Speaking in Mandarin, he said: "They don't have to help if they don't want to. But, because of my work, I'm hardly at home.

    "Having Yvonne to help out is just a way for me to spend some time with her."

    Like many girls her age, Yvonne loves Korean television dramas.

    Since she was 12, she has been tending the store with her father after school. Her siblings, aged 16 and 17, help out too.

    They have a roster of sorts: If she helps out one day, her siblings take over for the next two days before it is her turn again.

    What do they do? A combination of taking orders, preparing drinks, serving them and collecting payment from more than a hundred customers daily.

    Yvonne said: "I know my teh-Os from the teh-Cs.

    "Sometimes, I see fussy customers too. They complain when the ice is not enough, or when (the drinks) are too bland.

    "I have learnt to give them what they want."

    She works alongside her father for five hours each time, from 6pm to 11pm, when the stall is at its busiest.

    When asked if she finds it difficult to balance her school life and her commitments to the stall, Yvonne said: "(It's) still okay. I can manage."

    The Secondary 3 student at Guangyang Secondary School completes her schoolwork at home before going to the stall.

    Her school principal, Mr Benjamin Kwok, said: "She has not let this affect her studies and active participation in school and class activities.

    "She is a cheerful and resilient girl who takes challenges in her stride."