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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Tuesday, 03 January 2006 11:31

Hand-In-Hand We Shall Walk With You

Written by  Compiled by Pang Zhi Tsung / Translated Le Way Su

【Caring Case/Singapore.Phua Kin Yong and Phua Zi Qi】

Watching Zi Qi suffering in pain, her mother could only embraced her tightly to comfort her tortured child.【Photo provided by Tzu Chi Singapore Branch】

14-year old Phua Kin Yong and 10-year old Phua Zi Qi were normal at birth. Unfortunately, their bone frame started to degenerate at the age of five.

Initially, their legs slowly grew weaker and as a result of which, they fell down easily and finally their condition worsened and that they had to rely on wheel chair.    

It was only five in the morning on the 26 June 2004, but family Phua's house at Yishun, Singapore was already filled with life and hope. Rays of sunlight shone through their house, ushering in the long awaited hope for the Phua siblings who suffered from a rare disease.

With the assistance of Tzu Chi volunteers, the Phua siblings who were immobile all this while managed to dress up and were aided into a waiting ambulance outside their house. The ambulance arrived at Changi Airport at 7a.m. where the  Phuas' journey to recovery began. The plane finally took off at around 8.10a.m.

Background story of the Phuas

It was  on 27 February 2004 when  the local TV stations and newspapers publicized the story of the Phua siblings who suffered from a disease called Hallervorden Spatz Syndrome which affects one's central nerve system, appealing for help and donation. On 3 March 2004, volunteers from Tzu Chi Singapore visited the  Phuas to offer their service.

14-year old  Phua Kin Yong and 10-year old  Phua Zi Qi were normal at birth. Unfortunately, their bone frame started to degenerate at the age of five. Initially, their legs slowly grew weaker and as a result of which, they fell down easily and finally their condition worsened and that they had to rely on wheel chair. Their condition deteriorated to the extent that they were not able to sit up. Their parents were in helpless dilemma and urgently needed financial help and support. Their father works as a contractor doing house renovation earning about S$2,000.00 a month. With this monthly income, he has to feed six people, including two other sons at home.

Tzu Chi Singapore branch sent the particulars of this pitiful case to Hualien Medical Center for consultation and after thorough studies and deliberation, the doctors there were quite certain that they have handled similar cases before of which have produced  some positive results.

On 13 March, the  Phuas' father and uncle travelled to Hualien Medical Center to meet up with the relevant doctors so as to get a better picture on the recommended treatment and to share of some of their experiences. In mid April, their parents approached Tzu Chi Singapore that they would like to send the children to Hualien for further treatment  and the coordinated preparation was immediately made  for the trip to Hualien Medical Center.

Assistance from all

Due to their immobility, the two children were bed-ridden for a long time and it was a tough and challenging task to bring them to Taiwan for treatment. They were fortunate to have the assistance of China Airlines Singapore branch in making all the necessary arrangements and thanks to the helpful staff, the flight to Taiwan was made possible.  The Airlines  was also kind enough to sponsor three air tickets for the children and their mother, Madam Ong Kwee Hoon.

Besides that, the brother and sister also required the use of a stretcher to board the plane and after much discussion between China Airlines and the Singapore Airport authority, they finally allowed the stretcher from an ambulance to be brought along. With the co-operation from all parties, the trip to Taiwan was finally made possible.

On 3 May, accompanied by their parents as well as Tzu Chi Singapore CEO, Brother David Liu along with volunteer Lin Zu Hui, the Phua siblings arrived in Taiwan. Upon their arrival in Hualien, various tests were conducted on them, including neurological test, orthopedic, pediatric, MRI scan, genetic analysis and others. After much prognosis by the team of doctors and specialists, it was confirmed that they suffered from a disease called "Hallervorden Spatz Syndrome".

10-year old Zi Qi received chip insertion on 19 May and she was the second patient in the world to receive the same treatment. Her 14-year old brother underwent similar operation later. Kin Yong's rib at his left chest near to the abdomen was out of shape, resulting in his spine to form into "S" shape. The Honorable Chairman of Tzu Chi Medical Centre, Doctor Chen, Ying-He performed an operation on him to strenghten his body structure and posture.

Kin Yong's recovery progressed very well in Taiwan. His degenerative and spastic hands are  now able to open after the operation and he even can sit up with some support at his back and he can even take his own meal. His speech has also improved and he no longer has to stammer or stutter. Zi Qi's progress was even more apparent. Her body pain, epilepsy and fit have all disappeared. She can now hold biscuits with her own hands. Their health continued to improve. Their happy mother nowadays looks serene and radiant. 

Although the condition of her children's health is improving, Madam Ong is determined to bring them for follow up treatment with physiotherapy, hoping that they will make speedy  progress farther and will eventually lead a normal life.

With the wide coverage in the media on the  Phuas' condition, the family had received a lot of donation from the generous Singaporeans. The Member of Parliament of Ngee Soon constituency and the Service Counselor  set up a special fund for the  Phuas to defray and meet long term expenses.

Seeing what Tzu Chi Singapore has done for the Phuas, Yishun's member of Parliament and the Zone Eight RC Central decided to transfer the donation from the public totalling S$260,000 to Tzu Chi Singapore with full power to authorize the use of the fund.

Back home

The  Phuas returned to their home in Singapore on 27 October 2004.

They received a warm welcome from the public including Tzu Chi volunteers who held a  banner saying "Welcome home, Kin Yong  and Zi Qi". Amongst those in the crowd were their former school mates, teachers and relatives. The atmosphere was just overwhelming and the broad smile from the Phua brother and sister acknowledged the crowd's sincere enthusiasm and wishes.

Away from home for five months the  Phua siblings' appearance looked so different. Amidst all the cheering, we could hear compliments from the crowd like "Wah, Kin Yong has grown so much taller." "Look, Zi Qi is so pretty now!" .

Returning to their home in Yishun, more than ten relatives were there to welcome the "born again" brother and sister. Their 80-year old  grandfather lamented, "I saw them coming into this world as babies they learnt to   crawl  and later walk. In no time, I also saw them falling sick and gradually they were bed ridden. I felt so helpless.  But now, they are learning to walk again."

For the first time after so long, everyone in the family slept soundly without having to hear Zi Qi crying in pain.

Going back to school is not a dream

After three long years, Kin Yong and Zi Qi returned to school on 3 January 2006.

The streets of Singapore were bustling with life at the beginning of the year to mark the start of the new school term.  Uniformed students with smiling face eagerly walked to school.

Accompanied by their mother, Kin Yong and Zi Qi reported to their new school which is the Singapore Handicapped Children's School. Their mother said that her children had been looking forward to attend school and they woke up early that morning.

The school caters for children with cerebral palsy. It provides professional skills and teaches  spastic children some basic technical skills. It also trains the children to be self supportive and eventually to be able to stand on their own feet.

The headmistress, Ms Zunaidah bte Shahul Hamid said that the school emphasises more on the adaptability in life situation rather than achieving academic results. They will assess the ability and progress of the Phua brother and sister before enrolling in classes suitable for them.

Witnessing the flag-raising ceremony when the national anthem was played at the school assembly, their mother had mixed feelings. Although the children's expressions in body language was minimal despite the long term treatment including physiotherapy, a slight progress of her children is a tremendous achievement in their mother's eyes, something that will make her day.

"Zi Qi can stand up for long period now, Kin Yong is getting steadier when it comes to holding a pen to write. He can now write on square pages in the exercise book" Despite having to wake up at 4a.m. to prepare the children for school, Mrs Phua felt gratified and happy when talking about her children's achievement.

She also admitted that there were just too many house chores to do but she has to give priority to her children's welfare and treatment having to neglect the others. "I hope they will be independent one day, by not having to rely on their wheel chair." she expressed wishfully.

 

Upon their arrival at the Changi Airport, they were greeted excitedly by Tzu Chi volunteers, friends and relatives. Zi Qi joyfully celebrated her 10th birthday with the medical staff and volunteers in Tzu Chi Hualien Hospital, Taiwan.

Upon their arrival at the Changi Airport, they were greeted excitedly by Tzu Chi volunteers, friends and relatives.

Zi Qi joyfully celebrated her 10th birthday with the medical staff and volunteers in Tzu Chi Hualien Hospital, Taiwan.

 

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