GEORGE TOWN, Feb 14 – Her face is covered in a layer of hardened scars and she is blind in her right eye, but acid attack survivor Tan Hui Linn has never been happier with her life. The 23-year-old student is elated to have passed all of her Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) papers recently, and she is graduating this April.
She is also happy that she has been given a new lease on life through extensive reconstructive surgery, which has boosted her self-esteem. It was vastly different for Tan just five years ago, when her face and parts of her body were badly disfigured after her father splashed acid on her and her mother at their home.
Her mother died in the 2009 incident while Tan was left partially blinded, in tremendous pain and emotionally traumatised to the point that she refused to leave the confines of her home. “I dare not leave my house and I had to wear my mask and sunglasses all the time,” she shared.
Now that her face no longer attracts immediate stares, she said she could confidently leave her home anytime without feeling the need to wear a mask. Instead of looking at the incident as a black period in her life, Tan sees it as a blessing instead. “Without the incident, I would not be so grateful for what I have now and I would not have had the opportunities offered to me to further my studies,” she said.
She also believes that she is more cheerful and confident than before the incident. Tan was 17 when she was injured so she had to resit both Form Five and the SPM exams after the incident. After she completed her SPM, she was offered various scholarships to further her studies in several colleges.
“It is because of the incident that I was given such opportunities and now, I have completed my ACCA, fulfilled my goal and also my mother’s wish for me,” she said. Her only regret is that she was not able to share her results with her mother who had always encouraged her to study hard.
Over the past three years, Tan has travelled regularly to Korea to undergo corrective plastic surgery on her face. “Thanks to JK Medical Group, that sponsored the RM1 million surgical costs, I can now be like any normal girl, go out to have fun and meet new friends without feeling awkward,” she said.
Her travel expenses to Korea for the multiple surgeries were sponsored by Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi and public donations. Ooi said Tan’s reconstructive surgery is far from over as she still has to undergo follow-up treatments to soften the skin on her face through stem cell treatment.
When asked how she coped with the repeated surgeries and the ensuing pain, Tan shrugged it off as nothing. “When I was splashed with acid, the kind of burning sensation is what you’d call the worst kind of pain ever, so I don’t find anything else painful,” she said.
Now, Tan is looking forward to graduating and starting a career in accounting. “I only hope my poor eyesight will not suffer even more with a career in accounting, but let me try it and see first,” she said. Tan’s father, Teil Siew, was charged with the murder of his wife and grievously hurting Hui Linn, but was acquitted in 2011. Instead, the court declared him of unsound mind when he committed the act and ordered him to be detained at the pleasure of the Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri.