Singapore man’s life changes in an instant

A night can change everything forever.

Teens often take for granted what they have, thinking they are immortal and nothing can happen to them. But things can change in a second, just like they did for Douglas Stephen Chapman.

On April 24, 2014, Mr. Chapman was driving his motorcycle to his afterwork class located in Dhoby Ghat. As he continued with his normal routine, a truck doing an illegal turn propped itself horizontal to his path, causing a serious crash. People crowded around him as he was rushed to the hospital, where his wife, Juliana Chapman, was waiting. While the events of April 24 will continue to affect Mr. Chapman and his family for the rest of his life, he is only able to recall single snippets from the fateful night.

Mr. Chapman was able to recall his thought process from the evening: “I didn’t want to skid because I was frightened that I would go under the lorry and I would be crushed. So the best option for me was to literally bang the end of the vehicle while trying to stop.”

When arriving at the hospital, Mr. Chapman first got his severely broken arm reset. After three days in the ICU unit and a period of time at home in order to let his face rest before an operation, he received facial reconstruction surgery on the whole left side of his face. He regards his experience as “lucky” due to the fact that a shard of glass shot at his eye but missed blinding him by a mere two milimeter gap.

“I think physically, he looks fine, so no one can tell that he has been through an accident, but [it shows] when they talk to him,” Mrs. Chapman said. Mr. Chapman looks like any other man – untouched physically. Unfortunately, the mental effects of his accident surpassed his 3-day hospital stay.

“He smashed the left side [of his head]. The left frontal [lobe] is where apparently the short term memory is, that’s why his short term memory is quite badly affected,” Mrs. Chapman said.

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Douglas Chapman at the hospital. Courtesy of his wife, Juliana Chapman

Mr. Chapman mentions how his condition not only affects himself, but also the people closest to him. Referring to his wife, he said, “She gets very frustrated. I ask the same questions over and over again and she gives me the same answer, I just forget.”

He carries around a notebook where he writes down events so that he can look back at them and remember small activities from his day. He also records important conversations and lessons to ensure he can listen to them in the future. Although his short term memory was affected, his long term memory was actually strengthened after the crash.

“I remember things like my old house, which I stayed at until I was five years old. I remember the brand of the TV, the layout of the house, the kind of furniture, and actually walking at the height of a five year old,” Mr. Chapman said.

He said the accident sparked him to “look at life differently.” He and his wife now help out a local Singaporean soup kitchen with the belief that giving back to the community is important. Due to his experience with PTSD after the accident, he is also taking a psychology course to help others experiencing what he has gone through.

“It made me realize how blessed and lucky I am. Human beings tend to look at people who are better and have more things, but now I don’t see it that way. I’m very blessed. I have a great wife, I stay in a good house, I have a nice car. What else can I ask for?”

Author: Sasha Quinlan

Sasha Quinlan is Senior and one of the co-editors of The Eye. This is her third year reporting on The Eye. Having attended SAS for the past 15 years, she considers Singapore home. Some of her hobbies include binge watching "Clueless", writing, cheering, and eating sweet potatoes. She can be contacted at quinlan18229@sas.edu.sg.

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