Her right arm is everything to her. It is her only limb that works.
Miss Nurul Nabilah Mohamad Fuad, 22, uses it to operate her motorised wheelchair everywhere she goes.
She also types single-handedly on a keyboard with one hand for her Mobile & Network Services course in Temasek Polytechnic (TP), from which she will graduate next week.
The school has picked her for its first recipient of the Ngee Ann Kongsi Most Outstanding Overcomer Award, which recognises a student who has demonstrated strong perseverance to overcome setbacks in their lives.
Miss Nurul was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition where a newborn's joints are curved, resulting in decreased flexibility of the joints. The disease affects one in every 3,000 people and greatly affects Miss Nurul's mobility.
At birth, her left leg was twisted upwards and touching her right hip, and her right leg twisted upwards and touching her left hip, in an "x" position.
She had to undergo five operations by the time she was two, to straighten her legs.
Today, she can only lift her legs slightly, but her left leg remains stiff. She requires custom-made shoes as her feet are small and oddly-shaped.
Miss Nurul recalls when she could wear only socks: "When I was four or five years old, I would wear socks all the time, and was so sad and shy when I was out."
Because of her disability, Nurul has received financial help.
Asian Women's Welfare Association (Awwa) has been actively helping her integrate into mainstream schools under the Teach Me programme since she was in Primary 1, while her transport and study needs have been subsidised heavily by the Awwa Be With Me Scholarship and the LTA CareFund.
Her family and friends describe her as resilient and independent and not having a sense of entitlement.
Her mother, Madam Zariah Abbas, 47, a freelance masseuse, knows her daughter's grit and determination well. The mother of three has been providing for her children since her divorce last year.
Madam Zariah also taught the previously shy Miss Nurul the importance of voicing out her problems and she is fiercely protective of her daughter.
"I will confront anyone who thinks Nurul cannot accomplish as much as others, and tell them, 'If she can walk, she will walk faster than you.'"
Mrs Yeow Lee Lin, 51, Miss Nurul's principal from her alma mater, Changkat Changi Secondary School, agreed that the young woman does not allow her disability to get in her way.
"She always does her very best in everything and we can tell this from her surprisingly neat handwriting," she said.
Miss Nurul's lecturers at TP, Mr John Leong and Ms Noor Faridah, have also watched over her.
Said Ms Noor, who is also her appointed counsellor in TP: "She always smiles and brightens up the room, and motivates me as much as I motivate her."
Miss Nurul Siddiqah, 20, said of her closest friend and course mate in school: "I didn't like my course, but she was the one who pushed and guided me, even staying back and inviting me to her home to help me the entire day."
Miss Nurul attributes her award to those around her.
"I am happy and thankful for my mum and everyone who played a part in helping me overcome all the hardship," she said.
This article was first published on May 22, 2014.
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