Andy Soh Hung Zheng, Age 16
As the firstborn in the family, Andy’s parents waited excitedly for his arrival 16 years ago. They held high hopes and aspirations for him.
Yet the first sign of trouble came when Andy was 2 months old and he refused to drink his milk. At first Andy's parents thought it was because the milk was unsuitable, so they tried out other milk formulas. However, Andy’s condition did not improve over time. At 11-months-old, Andy weighed about 6 to 7 kg as compared to the 8 to 10 kg that other 11-month-old babies would normally weigh. Doctors later diagnosed Andy with global developmental delay.
Andy’s childhood was marred by frequent doctor and hospital visits. He often suffered from frequent bouts of fever and was also warded in the hospital multiple times for lung infection and hernia. It pained Andy’s parents to see their child getting sick so frequently. They were often at a loss as to what they could do to help Andy and how to make him feel better. There came a point during one of Andy's hospital stays where Andy could no longer eat and drink, and had to be put on intravenous drip to ensure he was still getting the essential nutrients and fluids. Thankfully, he recovered.
Andy’s family will be able to attest to the many challenges he has had to face both physically as well as mentally. Andy cannot speak or communicate his thoughts and wants well. He walks with an unsteady gait and has difficulty balancing himself. This means he is prone to falls. He experiences weakness in his limbs, and has had surgery for his dislocated elbow (which he sustained in a fall) and severe pes planus, which is more commonly known as flat feet. Andy usually requires the aid of a wheelchair and wears ankle-foot orthosis to support his legs. With much difficulty, Andy has learnt to navigate around his school compounds, MINDS - Woodlands Garden School and is able to put on his clothes by himself, but is not able to do much else on his own. Andy's inability to take care of himself remains a constant concern for Andy’s mother, Madam Lee Siok Eng, who often ponders what the future holds for him.
Despite the myriad of challenges that life has thrown at them, Madam Lee concedes that she still feels blessed because she has a younger son, Andrew, who helps her out at home. Even at the young age of 11 years old, Andrew is happy to share the responsibility of caring for his older brother. She also feels blessed to have had the support of Club Rainbow since 2014, when Andy first joined the organisation as a beneficiary.
Andy uttered his first word to his family after being placed in Club Rainbow’s art therapy programme in 2015. This has been very encouraging for Andy’s family who for years had hoped that Andy would be able to communicate to them. Andy is scheduled to start speech therapy organised by Club Rainbow and Madam Lee is hopeful that Andy will be able to speak more in time to come.
Andy has also benefited from Club Rainbow’s transport services to enable him to turn up for his medical appointments and other activities planned by Club Rainbow Andy’s parents also appreciate that the activities organised by Club Rainbow are specially planned with the needs of children like Andy in mind. Andrew was also allowed to attend some of the programmes and enjoyed himself so much that he started badgering Madam Lee to let him join Club Rainbow as well. With a wry smile, Madam Lee reveals that in the later part of 2015, Andrew finally joined Club Rainbow as a beneficiary when a routine visit to the doctor for a stomachache led to the discovery that Andrew suffered from chronic eczema and allergic rhinitis.
Madam Lee likens her experience with Club Rainbow to being part of a big family. She has found it helpful to hear from other parents about their experiences, to exchange tips and to provide each other with support. It is also a plus point for her that Andrew is now able to participate in Club Rainbow activities too. Both brothers have found a safe haven in Club Rainbow, where they are able to have fun alongside one another.
On its 25th anniversary, it is the sincere hope of Madam Lee that more children like Andy will be able to benefit from Club Rainbow’s services and programmes.