S'pore doctors return gift of sight to tumour-covered Indonesian

PHOTO: S'pore doctors return gift of sight to tumour-covered Indonesian

SINGAPORE - Indonesian Lauw Tjoan Eng, 50, has been living with horrific tumours covering his entire body for the last 45 years.

He was born healthy, the first child of five siblings, in Sawah Besar, central Jakarta.

However, tumours began mysteriously appearing all over his body when he was five, and by the time he was 20, he had random lumps growing on several parts of his body.

Doctors said he was suffering from a hereditary disease, despite both his parents being normal.

The disease is called neurofubromatosis, or Von Recklinghausen's disease, and there is no cure for it.

Unemployed and without sufficient funding, his condition got worse, till his appearance resembled one of a grotesque monster.

'People are scared of me. They don't make any nasty comments. Maybe because they are afraid of retribution,' he told The Straits Times (ST).

There is no cure for the non-contagious disease.

He had surgery once, but since then, he has been unable to afford more treatment.

The lumps grow on the nerves or under the skin, and in the last 15 years, the lumps within the tissue of his eyelid have been growing bigger and bigger.

They caused his eyelid to droop down to his nose, robbing him of his right eye.

But now, with the help of a volunteer group and three Singapore benefactors, he can see again.


Thanks to the help rendered free of charge from three Singaporean doctors, he can now see from his afflicted eye.

After viewing a photo essay on Mr Lauw published on The Jakarta Globe, anonymous donor and volunteer group Count Me In reached out to help Mr Lauw.

They paid for him to be flown to Singapore, and arranged for doctors to see him.

Touched by his plight, plastic surgeon Leslie Quek, eye specialist Lee Hung Ming and anaesthetist Kong Chee Seng agreed to offer their services for free. Gleneagles Hospital also waived its charges.

"If I was in his position, I would like for someone to offer to help me," said Dr Quek, who agreed to help when he read of Mr Lauw's disadvantaged background and knew he was in a position to help.

Last Wednesday, the surgeon removed the growths covering his eye and eyelid.

Dreams fulfilled

In the Jarkarta Globe report, Mr Lauw said that he hoped to visit Singapore, and also the Universal Studios here.

Thank to his benefactors, he now has done both.

A day after photo essay ran on the Globe, an anonymous donor called the newspaper offering to pay for Eng and a family member to go Universal Studios.

Count Me In then contacted the Singapore Tourism Board, who then facilitated contact with Gleneagles Hospital and Universal Studios.

He visited the theme park a day before surgery and took a picture with Marilyn Monroe, whom he described as 'very pretty'.

However, there is still one more dream to fulfil. He hopes to one day meet Indonesia-based Chinese Indonesia actress, TV Host, presenter and model Yuanita Christiani.

She is his favourite TV host.

However, he expressed fear that she might be too afraid to meet him.

Hoping for a miracle

Mr Lauw says he is resigned to a life of loneliness.

His parents had in the past told him that appearances do not matter for men, and that he could find a wife if he worked hard to earn money.

Today, he is unmarried and has never been near a woman. His appearances and disability also prevents him from landing a job, and he survives on the 400,000 rupiah (S$56) one brother gives him a month.

He receives money from another brother occasionally, and is distant from the rest.

He said what pains him is that he is a burden on his family.

He lives simply in a tiny, one-bedroom house on Jalan Lautze, near Pasar Baru, that he inherited from his parents.

In previous reports, he said he refuses to look in the mirror and only goes out during the night. When he goes out, he covers his face almost completely.

He does little everyday. He goes out to eat and shop, and once in a while strikes up a conversation with neighbours, guards or cleaning staff who are not scared by his appearance.

He feels the most comfortable at home, than anywhere else. He loves watching TV and movies, and has pasted a poster of Leonardo DiCaprio on the wall in his home.

Mr Lauw said that he is used to people being afraid of him, and says what he wants is not pity, but for people to see him no different as anyone else.

He admits he believes life has been unfair to him, and just prays for a miracle to cure him one day.