Her resilience is more than just skin-deep

PHOTO: Her resilience is more than just skin-deep

SINGAPORE - Readers have watched her grow up from an eight-month-old baby to the 23-year-old woman she is today.

Miss Ng Poh Peng, whom The New Paper affectionately called "Baby Poh Peng" when we first broke her story, was born with congenital ichthyosis, a rare and incurable hereditary skin disorder that causes her skin to flake off like fish scales, exposing raw-looking wrinkled pink skin underneath.

She shares a special relationship with this newspaper, which has covered her story since 1991.

As a baby, then just eight months old, doctors said she would be dead within two months. But Miss Ng defied the doctors. She lived a month beyond their terminal deadline. Then six months. Then a year.

Defying all odds, she turned 23 on Feb 11, 2014.

Her story that chronicles her resilience and optimism has amid adversity is one of the many moving stories featured in Singapore Raw: 25 stories from 25 years of news, emotion, wow, a new book published in commemoration of The New Paper's 25th anniversary (See last page).


Miss Ng's story moved readers to donate more than $295,000 in 1991 to help her family pay for her medical care.

Her parents gave half of the sum to charity, while the rest was used up by 2004, mostly on high hospital bills.

Miss Ng managed to reach full-fledged adulthood, flourishing under the tender loving care of her devoted family, comprising her delivery-driver father Ng Swee Sia, 53, part-time hawker mother Cheng Fong Mui, 48, and younger siblings Amy, 18, and Kelvin, 20, who were born normal.

Despite all her setbacks, Miss Ng - who studied at Opera Estate Primary School and Ping Yi Secondary School - obtained a Higher National ITE Certificate in Accounting from Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East in March 2011.

TNP visited Miss Ng and her family last week to present her with an advance copy of the book.

Said Miss Ng: "It's an honour to be part of this book. We're so thankful to TNP and the people who have helped."

Her mother, a part-time hawker assistant, added: "Hopefully, when people read about Poh Peng's story, they will want to be strong like her."

Miss Ng who has been working from home for the past three years as a web administrator for Sloane Clinic, gave us an update on her recent activities.

She was offered a job by Dr Low Chai Ling, the founder of the clinic, after the doctor read about her story in TNP. Since September 2011, Miss Ng has been working about three hours a day from home as a web administrator and earns about $800 a month.

She said: "I live a simple life and I'm not so stressed since I don't have to study any more. I normally spend my days reading or watching television."

She described herself as a "homebody" who enjoys watching television shows with supernatural themes and who makes monthly trips to the library and borrows "over 30 books at one time". She helps around the house when she can, including sweeping the floor that is "sometimes full of dead skin" because of her condition.

Although there is no cure for Miss Ng's skin condition, she has learnt to focus on the future.

Madam Cheng said that her daughter, who used to shy away from going out, is now more courageous and independent and is no longer afraid to go out by herself.

Miss Theodora D'cruz, 23, a Nanyang Technological University mass communications undergraduate and a former TNP intern who interviewed her for this book, said: "I've actually kept up with Poh Peng on Facebook and she's been asking me about the book. So I was extremely excited to be able to hand it to her in person."

Singapore Raw writer Jeanmarie Tan said: "The New Paper has thrived on featuring unique individuals among our pages and there is perhaps none more so than Poh Peng.

"She may have a rare condition, but that also makes her a rare gem.

"We hope her life of struggle, survival and strength is one that inspires those of her generation and beyond."

25 stories from 25 years

Twenty-five stories of love and hate, joy and despair, sacrifice and loss over the course of 25 years are packed into Singapore Raw: 25 stories from 25 years of news, emotion, wow.

Published in commemoration of The New Paper's 25th anniversary, the book chronicles TNP's most memorable stories over the years.

Stories like match-fixing "Kelong King" Wilson Raj, the shocking murder of eight-year-old Huang Na and Annabel Chong, Singapore's infamous porn star, are just some of the stories retold and updated in the inimitable TNP way.

The book gives you an insight into TNP's bold brand of journalism, with first-person accounts, award-winning infographics and initiatives like The Big Walk and The New Face.

The 80-page, hardcover book will go on sale at all major bookstores from Friday at $25 (including GST).

Get The New Paper for more stories.