I think one of the biggest fears a mother could ever face is knowing, inherently, that there is something very wrong with your child – only to have everyone else around you disprove it. For me, it happened one unassuming night after work when I discovered a dark shadow colouring my one-month-old daughter, Xin Yun’s, T-zone.
But nobody at home could corroborate what I’d seen, including my mother-in-law, who was with her at all times of the day. So, I chalked it down to exhaustion playing tricks on my vision. It was only when my husband finally affirmed that he’d seen what I did that we rushed her to a 24-hour clinic. Unfortunately, the doctor couldn’t ascertain what was wrong and referred us to a specialist at Gleneagles hospital instead.
The next day, it was a worrying two-hour observation before the specialist confirmed my worst fear: Xin Yun had heart defects. Not only were there holes, but her heart didn’t have a channel to pump oxygenated blood out. On paper, she shouldn’t have survived, but somehow, a vein had grown where typically there wouldn’t be one – a lifeline. The symptoms were only presenting themselves now because as she grew, the vein didn’t grow with her.
HITTING A ROADBLOCK
Due to financial constraints, our plan had been for the first surgery to be done at Gleneagles, before finishing the remaining two at another hospital. But as fate would have it, Xin Yun ended up sharing a ward with three other children who had come from the other hospital. Their parents complained profusely to me about the misconducts there, where their children were treated as experimental guinea pigs. Of course, we couldn’t risk it and decided that we’d do whatever it took to raise the money needed.
The first year was beyond difficult and saw me begging for loans left, right, and centre. It didn’t help that saving up was close to impossible, as her surgeries were staggered a year and a half apart. Thankfully, Gleneagles alerted me of their funding programme in collaboration with a local newspaper agency. That helped me pay at least half of the bills when it was determined that she would need five surgeries in total – her last one when she was eight years old.