Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with Mr Chan Soo Sen at the wake of Mr Chan's wife Patricia on Sunday.
Mrs Chan died last Thursday after suffering from a rare genetic disease that deprived her of sleep.
She found that she had inherited fatal familial insomnia through a test eight years ago, but her insomnia started in April this year after her 57th birthday.
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Fatal Familial Insomnia: A disease where victims cannot sleep
The wife of the former MP for Joo Chiat SMC Mr Chan Soo Sen died on Thursday after battling with a rare brain disease for eight years.
She was 57 years old. According to Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News, Mrs Chan was suffering Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI).
Mr Chan shared that the genetic disorder is hereditary, and it was a mutation to the proteins in her blood which was diagnosed as early as eight years back.
FFI has no known cure and involves progressively worsening insomnia, which leads to hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states like that of dementia.
Shortly after Mrs Chan's birthday in April, she had difficulty sleeping, and started snoring and sleep-talking.
She was later diagnosed with FFI in July this year.
Mr Chan said that his wife had a relative who succumbed to the same illness many years ago, hence, the family was psychologically prepared.
It is highly hereditary. If only one parent has the gene, the offspring have a 50 per cent risk of inheriting it and developing the disease.
According to Mr Chan, his wife's condition soon started deteriorating after she began exhibiting symptoms.
She began to lose bodily functions, and had trouble with tasks like messaging on her phone, holding chopsticks and walking. She later became wheelchair-bound.
On a Sunday morning (Oct 27), she was hospitalised after her pulse stopped. The doctor informed them later that Mrs Chan was brain dead as there was no oxygen to her brain for a period of time.
The family decided to keep her on life support so that her younger son could bid a final farewell. He flew into Singapore in the early hours of Wednesday morning. They decided to take her off life support on Thursday.
Though medical literature said those who suffer from FFI have a lifespan of between one and two years, Mrs Chan died within half a year.
“When things like this happen, you don’t ask why,” Mr Chan said. “You can only accept it, live with it and move on. Otherwise, you’ll end up very depressed.”
The MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Mr Teo Ser Luck was also at the wake, while MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Mr Wong Kan Seng and current MP for Joo Chiat Mr Charles Chong sent wreaths.
The condition is very rare. The mutated protein, called PrPSc, has been found in just 40 families worldwide, affecting about 100 people.
The age of onset is variable, ranging from 18 to 60, with an average of 50. However the disease tends to prominently occur in later years, primarily following giving birth.
One of the most notable cases is that of Michael (Michel A.) Corke, a music teacher from New Lenox, Illinois (born in Watseka, IL). He began to have trouble sleeping before his 40th birthday in 1991.
Corke died in 1993, a month after his 42nd birthday, by which time he had been completely sleep-deprived for six months.
In 2006, Discovery News aired a documentary of a family dealing with the knowledge that the family carries the deadly genetic disorder.
Jo Ann White revealed that both her husband and uncle died from FFI. Before their deaths, they experienced Alzheimer's-like symptoms: first insomnia, then hallucinations and dementia, and finally, death.