Most mothers would find it a daunting challenge to care for a disabled child, but Saowapa Theerapreechakul counts it as a blessing.
PRIDE: Saowapa Theerapreechakul, 41, with son Silparkorn Tosa-nguan, 13.
"People say I've got the most unfortunate life," said Ms Saowapa, whose son suffers from cerebral palsy. "But I don't think so. I believe I am extremely fortunate."
The former advertising firm employee was speaking last week at the launch of her book, A Miracle: When I Had a Disabled Child, at Ramathibodi Hospital.
After giving birth to a baby boy at Chulalongkorn Hospital, doctors informed Ms Saowapa that a calcium deposit had been found on the child's brain which would lead to cerebral palsy.
The boy, Silparkorn "Luk Hin" Tosa-nguan, now 13, often suffers from severe muscle spasms and has to be fed through a tube inserted into his stomach.
Ms Saowapa, 41, admitted she felt hopeless when she first learned about her son's condition. "I just didn't know what to do at the time," she said.
But after accepting her fate, she began closely monitoring her son's symptoms and took detailed notes to pass on to doctors to ensure he received the correct treatment.
One night Luk Hin, then aged nine, suffered severe muscle spasms. Ms Saowapa took him to a physiotherapist early the next morning.
The therapist said the spasms would last for hours, and it would take a long time for Luk Hin to recover.
"I began to think at that point that I had relied too much on health professionals [to care for my son]; I needed to help him myself," she said.
"I don't want my child to die. Many children with cerebral palsy die young due to complications rather than cerebral palsy itself."
Ms Saowapa began teaching herself primary care, physical therapy and disabled learning development methods.
Hospitals and local foundations for special needs children provided her main sources of knowledge, though she has also had opportunities to learn from visiting German and Japanese experts.
When Luk Hin was not accepted by any school, Ms Saowapa decided to found the Baan Mae Nok Home School in 2005 to support her son and other special-needs children.
She collaborated with community leaders and other mothers with special needs children to run the school, which is funded by public donations.
Located in Bangkok's Sai Mai district, Baan Mae Nok has grown steadily and now acts as a training centre for mothers to learn and exchange their experiences in special needs child care.
Ms Saowapa and her network plan to release more information about special needs child care to the public. They also plan to push forward a proposal next year to encourage better education opportunities for disabled children in Thailand.
She believes special-needs children can have better opportunities if physicians, families and schools work together.
"It's truly a miracle that I can do so many things to help [Luk Hin] and others in our situation. I'm happy to have him," Ms Saowapa told participants at the book launch, which Luk Hin also attended.
The boy, sitting in a stroller, appeared healthy and at ease despite having to meet a lot of people at the event.
Ms Saowapa detailed her experiences, feelings and methods she used to care for Luk Hin in her book, which is written in a form of a diary.
A Miracle: When I Had a Disabled Child is available free of charge, in Thai only, at Baan Mae Nok Home School (02-990-5753) and the Family Network Foundation (02-954-2346).
About the author
- Writer: Paritta Wangkiat