HIS wife disappeared 10 years ago, leaving him with a $20,000 credit card debt and two sons, the older of whom is autistic and has diabetes.
But mattress seller Ng Lian Heng puts his all into caring for his children, now aged 14 and 11, even though he has lost many jobs due to the frequent leave he had to take to care for his older son, whom he suspects may not even be his.
Mr Ng, 42, told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao in a report yesterday that he married a woman from Malaysia in 2002, a year after his first son was born. They had a second son two years later.
But in 2005, Mr Ng's wife hit the limit on all five of his credit cards, leaving debts of $20,000, and left without a word.
With two young sons, then aged one and four, Mr Ng had no choice but to stop working for a year to care for them. His mother helped with their living expenses.
While applying for citizenship and a passport for his son, Mr Ng discovered that his wife had gone through a divorce with another person in 2002.
This, coupled with the fact that no one else in his family had a history of diabetes or autism, led Mr Ng to believe that his first son may not be his.
However, he does not want to go for DNA testing.
He told Wanbao: "If he's really not my own son, who can I give him to? After all, I brought him up myself, we have a bond."
Mr Ng added that when his older son was younger, the child was diagnosed with autism, diabetes and dyslexia, and once spent two weeks in the intensive care unit as his blood pressure was dangerously high.
"My mind was a blank, seeing him covered with tubes," he said. "He used to be so lively but he became someone I could barely recognise. It hurt my heart to see him that way. He was only nine then."
Mr Ng said that he had to take leave to accompany his son in the hospital for a few days each time he was admitted. This did not sit well with many of his employers and he lost eight jobs in two years.
Because of his son's condition, Mr Ng would wake up at 5.30am every day to prepare breakfast, give his son insulin injections and do the housework before going to work.
Each time he takes his son to see one of his five different doctors, which can be as frequent as once a week, Mr Ng has to apply for leave.
The single father earns $1,800 a month and has to borrow money to make ends meet, often falling behind in bill payments. He lives in a three-room flat at Commonwealth Drive with his two sons, his parents and his younger brother.
His mother works but earns only a few hundred dollars each month. The family scrimps and saves, often eating instant noodles for their meals. They currently receive financial assistance.
Mr Ng's father was once a millionaire but became mired in gambling debt. Mr Ng himself once ran three mobile phone shops, but closed them due to high rental costs.
Looking ahead, he hopes to find investors who will give him a chance to run a business again and work for a better life for his family.
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