A normal day for Madam Lei Shuyan sees her waking up at 3am to cook porridge.
The food is for her youngest son, Mr Li Xingjing, 20, who has the IQ of a toddler. He can eat only soft food and often wakes up at about 5am.
Mr Li cannot control his bowels and makes only sharp noises to communicate.
The mother, who quit her job as a secondary school teacher four years ago, said: "I sing to him, bathe him and read books to him every day."
Madam Lei, 59, also takes Mr Li to a daycare centre daily.
She and her family were one of the 60 families invited to Make A Caregiver's Day 2016, a carnival organised by Share the Care SG to show appreciation for family caregivers.
Fourteen years ago, a swimming accident at Buona Vista Swimming Complex left Mr Li unconscious for two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit.
Doctors at National University Hospital (NUH) told Madam Lei that her six-year-old son might not survive.
"I was praying very hard for him. I get teary even when I talk about it now."
Mr Li survived, but his brain was severely damaged, leaving him unable to speak or walk.
According to Madam Lei, Mr Li was playing in the pool while waiting for his swimming coach to arrive.
Madam Lei said: "He told me he was going to the toilet and I took the chance to read the medical books that I brought with me."
Madam Lei said her husband, Mr Li Zuoyang, 65, has epilepsy and is unable to work. "I was reading books to try to find ways to help him."
After 10 minutes, she looked up and saw a crowd forming at the pool.
"I was thinking, 'It cannot be my son', but it was. His body was still and purplish."
He was rescued by a lifeguard and admitted to NUH, where he stayed for three months.
Madam Lei said: "I saw him attached to many life-support units. He was in a very bad state."
After Mr Li was discharged, their nanny of three years quit due to the stress. She did not know how to handle him. He would often scream because that was the only way he could communicate.
Said Madam Lei: "She was so scared that she quit. I did not know what to do."
Madam Lei was recommended to Joy Place, a care centre for special-needs children, and subsequently to Rainbow Centre, where physiotherapy was provided for her son.
That was when she was introduced to people who were in similar situations, as well as organisations such as Share the Care SG, she said.
"Everyone has been very kind to me and I appreciate all the people who work at Rainbow Centre for being so professional."
She added: "What the students do at Share the Care SG is meaningful and commendable. As a caregiver myself, I am very thankful for people like them."
Mr Li attends two daycare centres while Madam Lei is teaching enrichment classes part-time and working as a relief teacher.
When asked what she does in her free time, Madam Lei chuckled: "If he is not around, I will still be busy - marking papers."
This Chinese New Year, the family received packets of bak kwa, pineapple tarts and red dates from people.
Touched by the kindness and generosity of the teachers and volunteers she met, Madam Lei makes it a point to help those who are more in need than her by giving them gifts and money.
Her older son, Mr Li Xingnian, 25, who is a university student, has also reached out to help the needy by giving free tuition to young children.
Madam Lei said: "It is our way of giving back."
This article was first published on March 21, 2016.
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