Her battle with skin disease

Her Primary 1 classmates called her names, and the boys threw eraser dust at her.

Her peers were afraid to go near her, and their parents warned themto keep away.

Life has not been easy for 13-year-old Nurrul Namira.

Since she was five years old, she has been suffering from a skin disease called psoriasis, which results in red, raised patches forming all over her skin.

They make the skin thick and scaly, and the lumps can appear on any part of the body.

They can result in a thick scalp, causing severe dandruff, on the face, and even under the nails.

These lumps itch and hurt, and cause the skin to flake.

Because of this, Namira doesn't dress like the other students in school.

While they wore the school uniform, she chose to wear track pants, a long-sleeved top and a jacket to school to avoid embarrassment.

"It was really heartbreaking," said Namira's mother, Madam Faridah Ahmat, 44, a housewife.

"It was tough, and as her mother I was really sad."

There is no known cure for psoriasis.

"When I found out, I accepted it," said Madam Faridah. "It was difficult, but I accepted her, my daughter."

Namira is the eldest of three daughters. Her sisters do not suffer from the condition.

Madam Faridah said she removed Namira from kindergarten when she was five, because parents of other children called up saying they did not want her near them.

"We did not know what it was then," she said. She took her daughter to the polyclinic, but her condition did not improve.

Desperate, Namira's father even took her to Malaysia and Indonesia to try to find a cure. Nothing worked.

Therapy

The family eventually found out what her condition was when Namira entered primary school, and Madam Faridah took her to a private doctor, who referred her to the National Skin Centre (NSC).

Psoriasis is not contagious, and is contracted genetically. But even though both Madam Faridah and her husband do not have the disease, Namira does.

"From what we know, psoriasis is mainly genetic," said Dr Colin Theng, 43, a senior consultant at NSC.

"But only about 30 per cent of those who have psoriasis have a family history with it.

"70 per cent will not have a probable family history with psoriasis."

But finding out what it was, wasjust the start of it. At the NSC, Namira was referred for treatment and joined a support group.

"Psoriasis affects the patient both physically and psycho-socially," said Dr Theng.

"The support group is there to include the psycho-social needs of these patients."

He said many such patients suffer from depression and tend to keep to themselves.

Therapy

Namira also had to undergo therapy.

To help with the payments, the family sold their HDB executive apartment and moved into a three-room flat.

The family also managed to get help and financial aid from various organisations.

Madam Faridah said her daughter felt insecure about herself and her looks.

"When she was in school, she would call me over the phone and cry," she recalled.

But her confidence was boosted when she took part in a singing competition in school, and won.

She now enjoys various sports without having to feel embarrassed about how she looks.

The young Liverpool fan plays badminton, soccer, swims and wakeboards almost everyday.

"I have more friends who are really nice, and I feel much happier now," she said.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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