For World Sight Day today, a mum shares how she gets by with rare eye condition affecting 3 out of 7 in her family.
Eleven-year-old Mohamad Firman
Shah was running about at a playground
last month when he accidentally
stepped on a woman’s foot.
She was so angry that she called
the police and paramedics even
though his mother explained that
both she and her son were visually
“People do not know we are visually
impaired because we do not
look like we are handicapped,” said
housewife Norrizan Nahar.
The 35-year-old mother of six has
congenital cataracts, a clouding of
the lens of the eye that is present at
birth. The condition can affect one
or both eyes.
When a child has a cataract, the
lens cannot focus the rays of light
onto the retina normally. Instead,
the lens produces blurry images.
Her daughter, Anggun Kasturi,
14, and son Firman were born with
a similar eye condition, and had cataract
removal surgery when they
were a few months old. Both wear
glasses for long-sightedness, and
need regular eye checks to ensure
they are wearing the correct lenses
and receiving appropriate treatment for
“It is a rare condition that occurs
in one to three in 10,000 children
worldwide,”said Dr Cheryl Ngo,Consultant
at National University Hospital
Eye Surgery Centre. Both Singapore
National Eye Centre and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital operate on fewer
than 10 cases a year.
Except for the thick glasses that
the children wear, their visual handicap
is not apparent. But just to make
out the information in things like
text messages and on price labels at
the supermarket, they have to make
sure the words and numbers are extremely
close to their eyes.
Madam Norrizan had a corneal
transplant in July 2013 that marginally
improved her vision in the
right eye. But she was found to
have corneal graft rejection in May
2014 which left her with exceedingly
low vision, comparable to that of
a newborn baby.
The former hospital porter and
cleaner now relies mainly on her left
eye for sight and has since been certified
medically unfit for work.
Madam Norrizan, who is a single
mother, currently receives social assistance
that helps her with medical
expenses, rental for her two-room
Housing Board flat, and household
utility bills. She also collects food rations
every month from the community
centre. Her oldest daughter,
Anggun Sulastri, 16, takes care of daily
household chores and her younger
Even as they get by with the bare
minimum, Madam Norrizan’s children
are her motivation in life.
When Kasturi and Firman are occasionally
teased for their thick
glasses and “big eyes”, she tries to encourage
them to be confident because
she had similar experiences
growing up. “I always tell them to be
positive because we still have our
hands and legs. Only our eyes are
Despite her visual impairment,
she tries to take the children out at
least once a month to places like
West Coast Park and Vivo City mall,
where the children can have fun and
get out of the house.
Madam Norrizan used to be a
sprinter with the Singapore Disability
Sports Council. Her hope is in her
children and she wants to see them
“be somebody someday”.
Inheriting her mother’s passion
for sports, Kasturi also loves running
and trains in school every
Wednesday. “Kasturi wants to be
like me,” said Madam Norrizan. “She
said that she wants to join the Paralympics
and represent Singapore