Yujia, who is two years old now, was born with oesophageal atresia, a rare birth defect in which a baby is born without part of the oesophagus, leaving a gap between it and the stomach. As a result, she cannot eat through her mouth.
The couple set out to raise $2 million – the estimated sum needed to take Yujia to Boston Children’s Hospital for an operation. They picked the hospital based on their research into their daughter’s illness.
The amount raised so far is close to $1.1 million, which amazes the couple whose decision to crowdfund drew some flak.
One of their uncles was so taken aback by their crowdfunding campaigns that his negative reaction resulted in some unhappiness within the family.
“He thought we were crazy as the amount we needed to raise was really high,” said Jamie.
“My mum, being very sensitive, was rather angry with him.”
Yujia’s plight appeared in several media outlets and the family often gets stopped by strangers who want to say “hello” or to cheer for them.
“For some reason, we are very ‘popular’ in Tampines,” said Jamie who quit her job as an IT executive to look after Yujia.
She added that strangers they met during Yujia’s many hospital stays have also reached out to them.
“A woman wrote to say she felt embarrassed after reading about our situation because it made what her son was going through seem minor,” said Jamie.
For the couple, learning to count their blessings has kept them going.
They have seen children die and heard of couples breaking up because of an ill child. But they keep reminding themselves that Yujia’s case is not without hope.
“At least we know there is a possible solution and one with proven success,” said Jamie.
“As a Buddhist, I believe that Yujia is fated to be my daughter.”
There are ups and downs for the family.
They celebrate Yujia’s little achievements: simple things like progress with her psychomotor skills, when she claps along to her singing or when she manages to sit up correctly.
On bad days, Yujia yanks at her own hair in frustration, repeatedly gags on her own saliva or has to be rushed to hospital.
For the sake of their daughter, the couple try to stay strong. In Jamie‘s words, “There’s no time to complain.”
With more than half of the medical fee raised, Jamie finally has reason to think about the eventual trip and the additional headaches that will come with it, such as money for the air tickets and their six-month stay in Boston.
“Frankly, we didn’t think that far back then because the amount we are trying to raise is a lot,” she said.
Wen Long, a freelance event organiser, said: “We also don’t want people to think that we only know how to ask for donations.”
If possible, the family want to take care of their own expenses because they already feel indebted to strangers who have given money, as well as other necessities such as diapers, catheters and an air purifier.
With about $900,000 more to raise, Jamie is thinking of making soaps or souvenirs to sell, but many people have advised her to spend her time looking after her daughter instead.
Wen Long, who used to have a full-time job until his constant need to take time off work displeased his former employer, is now the sole breadwinner.
Despite the difficulties, the couple are determined to find the money for the operation.
“A lot of people have asked if I would give up,” said Jamie.
“Of course, the answer is always a firm ‘no’.”