2 days ago, Alice and I went for a home visit with social worker Hui Wen from AMK-SengKang Family Service Centre. The family we intend to reach out to has a dad, Mr Kong who is out-of-work for the past 1.5 years due to a slipped disc condition that continually plagues him despite surgery. Mom, Tip is busy with 2 daughters - the older one has mild autism, and the younger one, at 5, little angel she is, suffers from congenital scoliosis.
As a scoliosis patient myself, I know the pains and aches that are a chronic and daily part of life. But when I saw the multiple surgery scars which little Jia En has on her back, my heart literally twisted itself in pain. Such a young child, and yet she has to go through painful operations every 6 to 9 months for corrective surgery. What I was not aware of before meeting them was that while I had a permanent fixture of harrington rods fixed to my spine done at 12 years old, the doctors could not do the same for Jia En, because she still has many years of growing to do. In her dad's words, the surgical implants the doctors use for her are like "lego blocks", which need to be adjusted as she grows taller every few months. I can only imagine the emotional journey and burden the parents are carrying.
To break the ice with the shy little girl, I asked Jia En to check out my scar on my back, "See, Carrie Yiyi (Aunty) also got scar, same like yours!" Immediately, she opened up and started bringing toys to play with me, using a toy stethoscope to be "pretend doctor" and giving me an injection on my butt (haha!). Guess we bonded over our common misfortune!
Luckily for the family, a newspaper feature 3 years ago about Jia En's condition brought them lots of financial support from various sources. But in the long-run, the lack of income for the family is still a problem. That's where we hope to come in and help.
With the kind sponsorship from DOT's friend Fen Teo, we bought a new sewing machine for Tip (Jia En's mom) to use, so that she can pick up sewing again after 10 years of not having touched any craft work. Alice also visited the family again yesterday and spent a few hours teaching Tip how to make a simple pouch, as a beginner task. (We are getting some pouches made to be used as a sewing kit for our ladies in India.)
We hope that she can pick up the skills soon and hopefully some corporate orders come in for us soon so that we can parcel out more sewing work to Tip to earn more income from home.
Other than heartache for this little girl and for her parents, the one other thing I left the Kong family with is a sense of blessing - that at least I enjoyed 12 years of my childhood before my scoliosis condition had to be fixed. My wish for little Jia En is that hopefully by the time she reaches puberty and past the growth spurt period, her scoliosis condition will stabilize in a much better state than mine, so that she can enjoy the rest of her life pain-free and free.
Here's a photo of Jia En holding the newspaper article that talked about her medical condition. Isn't she a sweet sweet angel?