09 December, 2015
Team Singapore's Lim Yu Fei Faye (R) and her father Lim Boon Ghee [Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
This ASEAN Para Games (APG) is about celebrating the extraordinary in everything, not just the extraordinary athletes and extraordinary performances, but the extraordinary love between a father and daughter as well.
Team Singapore Boccia player Faye Lim has a physical impediment, so severe that she is unable to speak even a word to her closest family members, but that does not stop her father and ramp assistant Lim Boon Ghee from giving her the best he possibly can.
Faye’s parents discovered she suffered from a genetic disease called Glutaric Aciduria type 1 when she was five months old. It is a disorder that prevents the body from breaking down proteins completely, causing brain damage, and in Faye’s case, severely impaired motor function.
From feeding to clothing her, Faye’s parents have to take care of it all. Even the seemingly simple task of feeding Faye is trial all on its own, and her parents have had to reject outside help due to the unique way Faye needs to be fed.
“She can’t chew, she can’t swallow. Just moving her mouth is difficult. We have to cut the food into very small pieces and feed her,” said Faye’s father Boon Ghee.
“There is a technique of feeding her if not she will get choked so we decided to do away with a helper. My wife will take care of her during the day time and in the night time I will take over.”
Fortunately, Faye’s mental capacity is not affected by the disease, although her impaired motor function brings with it its own set of challenges when it comes to communication.
“Her mental ability isn’t affected much. She still can understand what we say, we still can communicate. It’s just that we have difficulty communicating in sign language because of her movements and she is speechless,” he said.
“So we talk in a way like charades. We ask questions or she will point at times. When we ask a question, if yes, she will give us a thumb up. If no, she will just wave her hand to say no.”
Faye (front R) in action [Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
In any other household, parents might celebrate their children doing well in examinations or getting into the top schools, but the Lim household is a little different.
They celebrate and treasure every milestone that Faye reaches, however small it may be.
“There are too many milestones, but for her to transfer herself to the wheelchair is one of them. She will find all ways to go up to the wheelchair from the floor or from the bed,” Boon Ghee said.
“She will just push the wheelchair to the wall, lean against the wall and slide her body up to the wheelchair. She will also use the bed, hold the bed and swing her body into the wheelchair.”
“These are all things that we didn’t teach her. She somehow figured it out herself. We were very impressed. When she came to our room by herself, we were like ‘Who helped you?”
“She was also smiling away like she achieved something.”
For Boon Ghee, who has a full time job with the army, finding time to bring his daughter to Boccia training can be difficult, but he finds a way to make it work as spending quality time with his eldest daughter is nothing short of rewarding.
While watching Faye at a session of Boccia last year, he saw a family of three enjoying the sport together and decided to step in as a ramp assistant as well. Now, he could not be more thankful for the precious opportunity to bond with his daughter.
“I like to play games with my kids. I play with my second girl and my boy but I couldn’t find anything that I could play with her,” the 47-year-old said.
“This is a good sport where both of us could work together. I found that there was the interest in both of us so we started working together.”
“Actually my wife is very jealous. In fact, I spend more time with her than my wife.”
A smiling Faye [Photo by Sport Singapore / Action Images via Reuters]
Faye has only been playing Boccia for 2 years but she has already won a silver in the Mixed Pair BC3 category with Toh Sze Ning and Nurulasyiqah Binte Mohammad Taha at this 8th APG, and she clearly loves the sport tremendously.
“She enjoys sport. This game, you can see that when she wins, she will really give a big smile to show you she enjoys it. If she doesn’t like it, she will tell you. It will be very clear and her actions will tell.”
Boon Ghee’s only hope for his daughter is that she will continue to enjoy the sport she loves and live her life to the fullest.
“My wife and I are hoping that after she finishes her school next year, she can go into full time sports.”
“Hopefully she can get a scholarship and play full time. That will at least keep her occupied and allow her to continue enjoying the game.”