Once a blood recipient, now a blood donor

Story by Sondra Foo and photos by Takalah Tan 

An inspiring story of Takalah Tan, a blood recipient turned regular           blood donor. 

Takalah Tan was at the prime of his life. He was a commando officer, a lightweight boxing champion, a triathlete, a scuba-diver, a bungee-jumper and a scuba diver all rolled into one. At 24, Takalah clinched a promising career in a coveted multinational company and was all set for a bright future.

Sadly, all that drastically changed when he met with a tragic motorcycle accident on 24 May 1994.

The accident sent him catapulting 70 metres from the right-most lane to PIE’s left shoulder.

“I suffered severe head injuries, permanent amnesia, and blindness in my left eye. Three of my right-ribs were broken. My shoulder was dislocated and my right shin was shortened by 11/2 inches. My surgeon told me that at one stage, my fever hit 46°C and that I had 0.1 percent chance of survival. Whilst being rescued, I lost one-third of my blood. Thanks to the availability of donated blood, I survived!

Takalah and his family suffered another setback three months later when his beloved father passed away due to a heart attack.

"I felt my father shouldn't have forsaken his heart-bypass appointment for me. When I came to know of it about half a year after my father's passing, I contemplated suicide."

A few months down the road, he found the inner strength to transform his negativity to positivity.

“I told myself that my father died to pay my debts, so I must keep improving myself.”

He counted himself fortunate that he had friends and relatives who never gave up hope on him. However, he had to re-learn everything he once knew.

“I had to grow up through the different ages again, and do so most speedily. I had to learn about my life before the accident. From the number of trophies in my cabinet, I learnt I used to be very active in sports.”

Six months after the accident, he started working; starting out as a cleaner, a food stall assistant, an administrative staff, a primary / secondary school teacher and a call centre customer service representative. Unfortunately, he could not hold the jobs due to his poor memory.

True to his name ‘Takalah’ (‘can't lose’ in Malay) which he adopted in 1984 to write to pen-friends, he did not give up. In 2003, Takalah went on to pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Health Science on Acquired Brain Injury at La Trobe University in Melbourne and was featured in Victoria’s Brain Injury Awareness Week publicity media for two years.

Takalah, 46, is a living testament that courage, inner strength, and undaunting spirit can indeed triumph over tremendous adversity.

He also finds it fulfilling to be a motivational speaker.

He also hopes to establish a network of brain injury survivors to inspire them to be strong in the face of challenges. 

He volunteered for nine months at a Korean school for kids of Korean Missionaries in Cambodia.

To regain his fitness, he jogs and swims regularly.

He also donates blood quarterly. 

"I won't be alive had it not been for the blood donors. I hope to inspire people to donate blood as my way of contributing back to society."
"I will clock my 50th donation of blood by the forthcoming Chinese Lunar New Year."

"People need blood to sustain their lives when they have medical conditions or to save their lives when they encounter unforeseen circumstances.We must keep giving."