When Madam Salinah Parsiri cradled the infant in her arms, it was love at first sight.

The 48-year-old had met baby Anis Humairah through a foster care arrangement. Humairah’s biological family was not able to care for her, and no one had visited her at the hospital when she was born.

At six months old, Humairah underwent genetic testing, which revealed that she had a rare chromosomal abnormality. Nonetheless, Madam Salinah was determined to adopt Humairah into her family.

Over the years, Madam Salinah and her family have learnt what Humairah’s triggers are, such as loud public announcements and the texture of sand.

Hence they no longer take Humairah to the beach, onto the MRT train or into malls so she would not be overwhelmed.

Today, Humairah is a cheerful 10-year-old with high-functioning autism.

Although she has special needs, Madam Salinah treats her like any of her other children and works hard to meet her needs. She hopes that Humairah will grow to be an independent adult and contribute back to society.

Madam Salinah, who has been a foster parent to 12 children since 2011, said it is never easy when a foster child leaves her care.

“It’s emotionally (draining). But I can’t just close my heart, because every time one child goes, there will be space for another one to receive the same love,” she said.

With the support she receives from her family, she welcomes the opportunity to foster more children as long as she is healthy and able to do so.

Madam Salinah was one of the recipients of the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards (IPCA) 2023 organised by SingHealth on Monday.

This year’s awards recognised 36 recipients who motivate healthcare professionals to deliver better care, and inspire many others with their tenacity and zest for life.

Ms Elaine Ng, 39, a fellow recipient of the IPCA, was also awarded the Partner-in-Care Award.

The Partner-in-Care Award honours those who have demonstrated exemplary active partnership with healthcare teams to improve care quality and experience.

Ms Ng’s daughter, Sophie, was born with Netherton syndrome. A rare genetic disorder that affects the skin, hair and immune system, this condition affects only one in 200,000 newborns worldwide.

As Sophie is the only child living in Singapore with this condition, Ms Ng had to learn how to care for her through trial and error.

Through independent research, Ms Ng found overseas support groups who shared valuable advice about how to care for people with Netherton syndrome.

Living in Singapore’s climate also presented unique challenges which they had to learn to overcome.

“It’s actually a double-edged sword. The humidity helps to keep her skin moisturised, but the heat can cause her to get really itchy. So it’s hard to find that right balance of comfort for her,” said Ms Ng.

Despite these challenges, Ms Ng said that caring for Sophie has taught her resilience and made her stronger.

“I felt a lot more empowered, and maybe it’s a calling to give the voiceless a voice. It energises me, so I think in that sense it’s given me more purpose in life,” she told The Straits Times.

Over the past three years, Ms Ng has worked closely with specialists from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital as they navigate various courses of action to treat Sophie’s condition.

Ms Ng is currently an exco member of the Rare Skin Conditions Society Singapore. She advocates for others with rare skin conditions and serves as an invaluable pillar of support for many families.

Today, Sophie is a spunky three-year- old with a big heart. Ms Ng hopes that Sophie will always be able to hold her head up high, and have the grace to treat others with kindness, even if she is faced with unkindness herself.

Congratulating all the award recipients, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Rahayu Mahzam, who was the guest of honour at the event, emphasised the importance of building a more resilient ecosystem of care for patients, families and healthcare teams.

“Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to care for our vulnerable loved ones,” she said.

“Let’s all continue to look out for each other and work together to make our communities stronger, healthier and happier.”