Kimbeley with her husband, Noel.
When you’re given a second chance in life, what are you going to do about it?
Kimbeley Yap, a double SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) gold medalist and national triathlete, was involved in an accident that nearly took her life. She shares her life-changing experience with our writer, Tamara Jayne, about the struggles she went through after the incident and how she overcame them.
Q: Tell us what happened on the day of the accident.
A: May 28, 2014 was the day that changed my life. I was out training on my bike for the upcoming SEA Games that was to be held in Singapore.
There were eight of us on that bike ride and at the end of the training session, we all split to go home. I was about two kilometres from home in Sri Hartamas when out of nowhere, a Toyota Harrier hit me from the back.
As I lay by the roadside in a pool of blood, I was in and out of consciousness and grew extremely restless whenever I was aware of my condition.
In the midst of all that had happened, there was a person who witnessed the entire incident. He saw how fast and reckless the young man was driving. He saw how the vehicle slammed into my bicycle and hit me, as I flew seven feet up in the air.
He watched my body drop, land face down on the car and eventually roll onto the road.
At the time of the accident, I had lost my phone. None of my family members and loved ones knew that I had gotten into a massive accident. The witness was trying to identify me, so he took photos and posted it on Facebook. Thankfully, he stayed with me the whole time. He was even kind enough to help me lodge the police report. I felt truly blessed.
I was taken to the University Malaya Medical Centre and was in a coma for eight days.
Many people came to the hospital to see me but they were not allowed to enter as I was in the intensive care unit. There was not one day that my family lost hope.
My face was so beat up from the accident that those who managed to peek into the room could not even recognise me.
I was in the hospital for a month and had to have a portable bidet as I could barely move around. I had sustained many injuries and the minor ones resulted in stitches on my forehead and foot.
The major injuries included a severe concussion, whiplash, a crushed patella and a fractured tibia on my right leg, and a degloving wound the size of a RM10 note behind my left thigh.
After I had woken up from coma, my family told me that on the day of the accident, there was a passer-by who happened to be a doctor. He was quick to help me stop the bleeding and put me in a neutral position until the ambulance arrived.
He happened to attend the same church as I do, and he also happened to be Noel’s (my husband) friend! Looking back, I believed this was really God’s way of making sure I survive.
Q: How did you manage to overcome the trauma that came along with it?
A: I can’t take all the credit for this. It was hard to think that I won’t be able to recover in time for the Singapore SEA Games.
How do you deal with someone who was so active before to now settle with a walking stick?
But I had such a strong support system; my family, Noel, and fellow triathlete friends would always talk some sense into me whenever I feel down.
At church, I had people praying for me. Many of them would come up to me and let me know that I was looking so much better.
That was really comforting
because every time I looked at myself in the mirror I would cry
and ask, ‘Why me?’
One day, as my physiotherapist looked through scanned images of my spine, he told me that the injury I had sustained was a mere two millimetres from my spinal cord and I could have been paralysed from the neck down! From that day on, I looked at everything differently.
I was given the most precious gift—a second chance in life—and I am going to make the best out of this one!
Q: What were the difficulties you had to face in regards to the accident, and how did you get through them?
A: There were hurtful comments from people who did not know me. They would ask and say things such as, “Why was I cycling alone?” and “If she’s such a seasoned cyclist, she should have known better.”
People should find out about the entire story before they judge. The witness who stayed with me the day of the accident and his story of how it happened, means more to me than those who had no idea of what happened.
Q: How has your life changed since the accident?
A: This whole experience has taught me to not take things for granted. I’ve also noticed that I’m not so afraid of petty things such as flying cockroaches! What is the worst thing that could happen?
I’m more mindful about how and what I do in life. I’m more focused on engaging with the present.
My biggest piece of advice to everyone out there is if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.
As the saying goes, “It never gets easier, you just get stronger.”