At 14, she became the caregiver for her single mum and younger sisters
Teen put her life on hold for family
When she was 14, Victoria Quek became the only caregiver for her single mum, who was battling renal failure.
Then a student at Serangoon Garden Secondary School, the teen often missed classes as she struggled to manage her mother's medical appointments and look after her two younger sisters.
For three years, Quek juggled her responsibilities, and studied on her own when her mother was at dialysis sessions.
In November last year, her mother died at age 44.
Earlier this month, Quek, now 18 and a nursing student at the Institute of Technical Education, was lauded for her efforts at the annual Singapore Patient Action Awards (SPAA).
Quek received the Singapore Patient Caregiver Award after a social worker who worked with the family nominated her. The award, she said, felt like a validation of her efforts.
In its sixth year, SPAA awards individuals and organisations who have made great contributions in the field of caregiving.
Caregivers, patient advocates and volunteer groups were among those lauded for their compassion.
"I never expected to get an award, and it was quite surprising for me. I felt happy - the award is confirmation that I did something right," Quek said.
Before she fell ill in 2017, Quek's mother was a freelance lawyer. Quek did not want to discuss details about her father.
Referring to her late mum, Quek said: "She was both mother and father to us. She was a level-headed and strong person. She suffered from a flesh-eating infection and kidney failure, and we even feared she would need a transplant at the time.
"I felt like I was running on autopilot, putting my studies on hold because for me, my siblings' studies took priority over mine. They were too young to stop schooling."
She, her mother and two sisters, now aged 14 and 16, also become closer when her mother was sick.
Despite all that was going on, she passed her O-level exams. It was while she was taking care of her mother that Quek started noticing the tireless work of the nurses at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).
She said: "I learnt how to take care of my mother from the nurses, and they even told me I was a fast learner.
"I also realised they were far more hands-on in a patient's daily life compared with a doctor. That appealed to me."
Their dedication and duty of care influenced Quek and eventually led her to choosing nursing as a future career.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all award recipients took part in the ceremony through a special video showcase that premiered at TTSH's virtual Singapore Patient Conference 2020 on Nov 6.