George Town (The Star/ANN) - Believed to be one of the country's longest vegetative state survivors, Merlyn Ann Jeremiah was a fighter to the end.
She was in this state for 31 years.
The 46-year-old passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at a private hospital here on Saturday night.
Looking tearfully at the last family photo with Merlyn, her father James, 89, recalled the toll her hospitalisation took on the family. The photo was taken in the 1970s.
"We all suffered looking at what she was going through but Merlyn is now with her mother in a better place.
"My wife Hilder passed away six years ago. I believe Hilder is now taking care of Merlyn," he said at the family home yesterday.
When Merlyn was 15, she went to a private hospital to remove a corn on her foot.
It was supposed to be a 20-minute procedure but there were complications and she had been in a vegetative since, said her sister Joyce.
"From then on, she was bedridden and could only eat through a tube. She could not speak but would sometimes moan. The only signs of life were the sound of her breathing and her eyelids blinking," she said.
Merlyn, a former SMK Convent Pulau Tikus student, had loved sports and was very athletic, said Joyce.
"She was very friendly and had many friends. We were surprised and happy that so many people came to pay their last respects when they saw the obituary. We didn't expect that as she has been in the hospital for so long.
"We thought people would have forgotten about her," she said, adding that Merlyn was a fighter to the very end before "her heart slowly stopped beating".
Merlyn, who was the youngest in the family, leaves behind three brothers, a sister, nephews and nieces.
Her brother Gary, who flew back from Brunei, said he missed seeing her by a few minutes.
"I arrived at the hospital but she was gone. It's a miracle that she held out as long as she did. Perhaps it's better for her to be with God-at least now, she is finally at peace," he said.
The cortege leaves the family home at 93, Jalan Chan Siew Teong, Chee Seng Garden, Tanjung Bungah, today at 10am for the funeral mass at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Lorong Maktab, Pulau Tikus followed by the burial at the Kelawei Road cemetery.