SINGAPORE: “My mothers and fathers are struggling.”
“I adore them so a great deal.”
“They’ve lost so a great deal due to the fact of me.”
He normally takes some time to set these sentences together, repeating words and slurring marginally as he habitually pushes his glasses up his nose. The spectacles do not sit well with his sunken remaining temple and the palm-sized, surgically-inserted titanium plate holding it up.
On the exact same side, his constrained field of eyesight triggers his burly body to teeter remaining sporadically as he ambles along the Pandan River toward house in Jurong East. He quickens his rate as storm clouds gather overhead. “It’s heading to rain.”
Twelve years back, a number of hundred metres away, it was pouring when Lee Wei Kong, Anglo-Chinese Junior College rugby captain, sprinted via a pedestrian crossing to capture the bus – and was bulldozed by an oncoming taxi.
His significant, traumatic head and spinal accidents essential a few main functions within a week. At very first, medical professionals gave him no probability of survival. Then he woke from a seventeen-day coma, and they reported he would be a vegetable.
These days, 29-12 months-outdated Wei Kong walks, talks, will work as an artist and is married with two daughters.
“A unusual, effective outcome” was how his very first surgeon described it, reported his father Lee Swee Chit, who in 2006 sued the taxi driver’s insurers and has acquired some S$800,000 in damages given that.
It is tiny compensation for what the Lee household has experienced to endure. “I’ve been extremely hurt. It threw my life into torture (sic),” reported Wei Kong.
“It’s been rough,” reported Swee Chit, fifty seven. “A good deal of pain… A good deal of perseverance. I’m extremely very pleased he’s occur so much. But there is however a extended way.”
The elder Lee’s dimpled, amiable disposition darkens when recalling Wei Kong’s most intensive time period of rehabilitation.
“He couldn’t even talk. He couldn’t even stroll. This is one thing we wouldn’t even want to materialize to the worst of our enemies.”
Just after Wei Kong was discharged from a six-thirty day period clinic continue to be, the Lees started him on a day-to-day physiotherapy regime. It proved arduous even for a teenager at peak physical condition, who experienced excelled in rugby given that his primary school days and gained a connect with-up to the nationwide underneath-19 squad.
Wei Kong retains up a photo of himself in secondary school.
“He was crying… He couldn’t talk then, so he would shout,” reported Swee Chit, a supervisor at an engineering organization. “But he was also extremely decided. He experienced preventing spirit.”
Still, at his most affordable, Wei Kong’s frustration would threaten to overwhelm. “Sometimes he just preferred to give up. That was hard for us,” reported Swee Chit, his voice quivering.
“But we took it day by day. We would convey him to the Botanic Gardens, to West Coastline Park to stroll in the center of the night, when not lots of people today were being there. Two of us would be at his side to maintain him, and make absolutely sure he didn’t slide around.”
“When he ultimately could… It was one of the happiest moments of our life, to see him equipped to stroll on his individual.”
Speech came bit by bit to Wei Kong, who expended approximately two years employing indicator language and drawings to converse.
That was not the conclude of his restoration method. “We never ever believed in allowing him continue to be however,” reported his mother Ho Siew Phin. “Whenever we experienced the probability, we preferred to drive him as much as achievable.”
His proper hand, which he utilised to score a distinction in O-stage art, remained paralysed. Irrespective of the physiotherapist’s guidance to aim on his remaining, his mothers and fathers insisted on education the when-dominant hand, and it paid out off: Not only did it start to shift again, Wei Kong uncovered he could however draw with it.
An additional of his will work at the Westlite dormitory.
He would go on to maintain various art exhibitions, which later served as a portfolio for his admission to the Lasalle College of the Arts in 2007.
“Nobody else preferred to get him,” admitted Swee Chit. “We approached ITE (Institute of Specialized Instruction) very first, and they didn’t take him due to the fact they couldn’t have an individual on the lookout soon after him in school.”
For the upcoming a few years, that an individual was Wei Kong’s mother, 56. She would attend courses with him, history almost everything, hear to the tapes at house, train him again, and enable with homework.
As Ms Ho, who stopped perform as a kindergarten trainer for 7 years to treatment for Wei Kong, set it: “Three people today graduated with one diploma in great art.”
Once he could stroll, Wei Kong’s father commenced re-instructing him how to swim and cycle – though with no smaller sum of fretting.
“Even walking, just about every now and then he falls down. When he goes swimming he knocks his head. And in biking he falls so often… He doesn’t hear. He likes to speed. He doesn’t know the hazards. He will shoot past a red targeted visitors gentle 5 out of 10 situations.”
“I comply with lah,” Wei Kong laughs.
Mind accidents from the incident modified Wei Kong’s character and conduct, his father described.
“His judgement is not there. He doesn’t assume a great deal of outcomes. Regardless of what he wants to say, he suggests. Regardless of what he wants to do, he must do.”
And Wei Kong, who however undergoes fifty percent-yearly professional medical assessments, is mild by mother nature but now has difficulty managing his anger.
“Physically, he’s there but mentally he’s a little bit slow.”
“Because he appears normal, it’s brought on a great deal misunderstanding with people today. Like when he goes to the market to buy foodstuff, I can see the seller is pondering, ‘Why are you hoping to be humorous, talking so bit by bit?’ He will also make the seller extremely discouraged when he can not make up his brain.”
Wei Kong at perform.
When chatting about his career – portray murals at the Westlite workers’ dormitory in Jurong – Wei Kong laments his “art is not extremely excellent now” and that God wants him to turn into a pastor.
It prompts a stern lecture from his father. “Wei Kong, your boss wants you to occur in the morning to perform, and go back in the night like a normal individual. So you do not have to depend on your mothers and fathers.”
“You must imagine you are a normal individual. You must behave like a normal individual.”
Just after Wei Kong graduated from Lasalle, his mothers and fathers could not discover a suitable art-similar career for him. So they determined to be much less concerned with the mother nature of perform than with him getting gainfully used.
Involving 2010 and 2015, Wei Kong tried out much more than 10 various work. None lasted much more than six months.
“At very first he was waiting tables, but his coordination was not so excellent and he tended to break points. He broke a plate costing much more than his wage, and it was also hard to coach him to take orders,” reported Swee Chit.
“After that, he was washing, cleaning tables at a hawker centre. It was so sad for me to see…”
“I cried seeing him do that,” reported Ms Ho, her eyes reddening.
“But I didn’t brain,” her spouse continued. “If he has to experience, to make himself employed… I would inquire him to do it. But even this career didn’t last extended.”
“Usually, when I technique an employer, they do not brain serving to. But soon after being aware of his limitations, they occur convey to me ‘Sorry, it’s not doing the job out, Wei Kong is much more of a hindrance than a help’.”
“He likes to talk to other people today and disturb them while they are doing the job. Then he just thinks why are people today not chatting to him. He doesn’t realize doing the job society. He doesn’t realize social norms.”
“I can now,” Wei Kong muttered.
The walls at the Westlite workers’ dormitory in Toh Guan are filled with his paintings.
He has, nevertheless, lasted two years in his present career at Westlite, which was given to him by a fellow church member and pays about S$1,800 a thirty day period.
“You can not get an comprehending employer like this,” reported Swee Chit, adding that Wei Kong’s direct supervisor was despatched for a training course on dealing with autism.
“The firm doesn’t even need to have to paint the walls… They were being excellent ample to bend their plan to accommodate him.”
“I’m extremely grateful and grateful.”
“If much more businesses in Singapore are ready to be much more flexible with small-working people today, there is hope for lots of of them,” Swee Chit declared.
He reported the most important constructive for his son is the feeling of contributing to household.
“He however has a specified pleasure and dignity. When he was rugby captain from primary to secondary school to junior school, he was generally the alpha male. And that’’s not lost in him.”
“The frustration is that he can not be an alpha male these days, but at least with the perform now, he is serving to the household, and that can make him hopeful there is a upcoming for him.”
Wei Kong is instructing his youngest daughter, Emma, how to say “thank you” in Mandarin. “She’s clever, everybody suggests so.” He presents the one-12 months-outdated a drink, lifts her on his lap, and provides her a tender kiss on the brow.
“I hope Emma and Esther (the older daughter, 3) can mature well and do perform properly.” He turns and whispers: “And I want a son.”
The Lee household pose for a photo at Wei Kong’s place of work.
Wei Kong’s courtship and eventual relationship to China indigenous Chen Xiaoli, 28, was initiated by his mothers and fathers back in 2011.
“Knowing his condition, we didn’t want him to go out there and anyhow get anybody,” Swee Chit described. “And my wife experienced a colleague from China, who experienced a niece, who didn’t brain.”
The Lees flew to China to satisfy Ms Chen’s household and colleagues. “As a nurse, Xiaoli’s viewed a good deal of these instances so she can realize Wei Kong’s position,” reported Swee Chit.
The pair married in 2013. Even though they however dwell with Mr and Mrs Lee – as well as Wei Kong’s young sister LeAnn who will work as a lawyer – they will have their individual flat in July.
“When his daughters mature up… Everything will be excellent,” reported Swee Chit.
Outside of household and church, Wei Kong has tiny by way of social circles. “I’m losing my companionship with a good deal of my contacts on Facebook and Whatsapp,” he complained.
Explained his father: “He can make close friends very easily and loses buddy very easily, due to the fact he gets extremely demanding. He however hasn’t discovered how to interact with people today.”
“I assume social media has brought on a good deal of troubles for us, when he learns about some close friends executing improved, he compares himself with them and wants to be like them.”
“Society can be extremely cruel,” reported the father, his voice lowered.
“Society listed here has to take there are people today who need to have enable. They have to understand… to include people today like him somewhat than adhere to insurance policies exactly where this can not, that can not.”
But he also acknowledged that in Wei Kong’s situation, his culture – from church to employer – experienced aided make it less difficult on the mothers and fathers.
“It’s not our hard work by itself to make him what he is these days. It’s the hard work of everybody who did a smaller portion to enable him along the way.”
“On our individual, I do not assume we can. I would have given up and informed him to continue to be at house, sleep, enjoy Tv set.”
“Wei Kong, are you pleased?”
“I’m not sure… At least I have a career, so I can help my household. So my mothers and fathers can dwell life peacefully and without the need of battle. I want do one thing effective, constructive in life. I do not want to sit and rot.”
Wei Kong’s inventive capacity is one of number of remnants from his life right before the incident.
Due to the fact the incident, Wei Kong’s mothers and fathers have experienced tiny choice but to lay out a extended-phrase system for his life, reported Swee Chit.
“I imagined about it extremely difficult when he was recuperating. Suitable from the day he was discharged from hospital”
“I have to make decisions for him. That is the most hard portion, and sometimes we conclude up in a huge argument. But I can not allow his irrational pondering to figure out his upcoming.”
“Before me and her go, almost everything must be in location. LeAnn has been valuable, supportive and understanding… and I will be based on her to glance soon after affairs when I’m no for a longer period all-around. This alone is extremely comforting to us.”
Have they endured, as their son feels?
“As a parent, I do not consider any of this a sacrifice. It’s our career to see our small children via thick and slender.”
And these days, Wei Kong is however increasing up bit by bit as a kid would, nonetheless to turn into a teenager and then an grownup, reported both equally Mr and Mrs Lee.
“We can see he’s receiving improved each day,” reported Swee Chit. “As he gets older, he will turn into mellower, and take what he is.”
“As mothers and fathers, we will generally have a good deal of anxieties and considerations and fears. But there is a improved upcoming. There’s however hope he can dwell a normal life.”
(Pics: Justin Ong)
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