Beneficiaries of Children's Cancer Foundation get hands-on experience at tech event

Beneficiaries of Children's Cancer Foundation get hands-on experience at tech event
Seven-year-old Calista Lee (left) and her sister, Erica Lee, five, played with a small robot at an event organized by Infocomm Development Authority staff. The sisters used an iPad to control the robot through an obstacle course.

For two years, little Calista Lee barely left her home except to go to the hospital.

The cheerful girl, then three, was kept indoors because of her weak immune system - an effect of the chemotherapy she had to undergo after being diagnosed with cancer.

At that tender age, doctors had found two malignant tumours in her brain.

And after undergoing two brain operations, 33 radiotherapy sessions, and 18 months of chemotherapy, Calista, now seven, was declared to be in remission about 18 months ago.

She and 12 other children, who are beneficiaries of the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF), attended a technology-themed event yesterday, organised by the staff of Infocomm Development Authority.

The staff raised money for the event, which allowed kids to get hands-on experience in programming their own robots and learn about 3D and wearable technology.

Although she does not look any different from other kids her age - especially while playing with an iPad-controlled robot - Calista's journey to recovery was painful, recalled her mother, Madam Eveline Lim, 35.

Looking distressed as she recounted Calista's experience, the housewife said: "Once, (the nurses) had to poke her eight times to draw blood.

"Her arms were very small, and they couldn't find her veins. I couldn't bear seeing them poking my daughter."


To survive the long waits at the hospitals, Calista played games on the iPad.

"It helped when we were going to the doctor and there was a long wait. It kept her entertained," said Madam Lim.

But while it killed time, technology could not keep the side effects of her treatment at bay.

These included slight hearing loss, impeded motor skills, and stunted growth.

Although she is two years older than her younger sister, Erica, aged five, the two girls are the same height.

And while Madam Lim is happy that Calista had started Primary 1 this year at MacPherson Primary School, the little girl had struggled to adjust, Madam Lim said.

For instance, as she did not have the chance to play with other children her age when she was ill, she does not know how to make friends and share, Madam Lim said.

But Calista seemed to be doing fine yesterday, as she played with other CCF beneficiaries aged between seven and 12.

One activity included teaming up to control a robot and navigating it through an obstacle course.

Calista also watched as small rings were printed by a 3D printer.

"I am having fun," said the cheerful girl.

Ms Neo Lay Tin, executive director of the CCF, said that she was grateful that the children were able to experience state-of-the-art innovations and learn about the benefits of technology in their everyday lives.

Madam Lim, who watched her daughter play with a small blue robot, added: "I just want her to have a normal life. I want her to be happy."

This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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