Maid was my pillar of strength, says mum of two sons with rare illness
Sri Lankan maid dedicated her life to caring for employer's two sons, who suffered from a musculoskeletal disorder
For most parents, welcoming their child into the world brings plenty of joy.
But for Madam Selvakumari Chelladurai, 45, giving birth to her son, Ravindran, in 1996 brought heartache instead.
He was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare musculoskeletal disorder characterised by the presence of multiple joint contractures at birth.
Sufferers have difficulty moving around because of decreased flexibility of the joints.
Madam Selvakumari, an accountant, said: "Being a newlywed and having a child with special needs, I was overwhelmed, emotional and felt that the world was tumbling."
But fortunately, she had her domestic helper, Miss Ranpati Dewage Siyanthi Siromani Pushpika, who helped her family through their difficult period.
Miss Pushpika, 44, became the caregiver for Ravindran and his younger brother, who also suffers from AMC.
She not only underwent training for the medical equipment needed for the two boys' care, she also refused to take any day off so that she could look after them better.
Madam Selvakumari is so thankful she nominated her Sri Lankan helper for the Foreign Domestic Worker of the Year award for her 18 years of service to the family.
She said a friend had recommended Miss Pushpika to her after Ravindran was born.
Within seven months of working for the family, Miss Pushpika was able to look after Ravindran all by herself, giving Madam Selvakumari the confidence to go back to work as a part-time accountant to help her husband, Mr Balan, then an export manager, with the hefty medical bills.
In 2002, Madam Selvakumari gave birth to Arvind, her second son, who had the same condition as his older brother, much to her "horror and disappointment".
"Pushpika was my pillar and rock. Here is a young woman, who was only 26 years old when she started working for me and had a whole life in front of her.
SACRIFICE OF LOVE
"Yet, she made the ultimate sacrifice of love for my boys and decided to put them before herself," she said.
Miss Pushpika did not take any days off, apart from the hours she took off to send money back to her family.
Being the primary caregiver for the children, she learnt how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), how to remove phlegm from the children's throats using a suction machine and how to use the bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which provide a flow of air into the nasal passages to keep the airway open.
And now, even after Ravindran and Arvind died in 2007 and 2013 respectively because of complications caused by AMC, Miss Pushpika still works for Madam Selvakumari.
"Her dedication towards us is beyond words. I cannot imagine how I could have cared for my two boys over the last 18 years without her," said Madam Selvakumari.
"She was like a foster mother to my sons and has become part of my family."
Miss Pushpika said: "I'm very happy working here. She (Madam Selvakumari) is not only my madam, but also my best friend."
Another domestic helper who was nominated, Ms Analiza Bravo Canveral, 42, has been with the Chong family for 11 years.
Ms Analiza was employed by Mr Eli Chong, 44, a teacher, when his mother, retiree Lee Leong Choo, 75, was no longer able to care for herself in 2004 when she was stricken with multiple illnesses.
Madam Lee suffered kidney failure in 1973 and has had to undergo dialysis thrice weekly since May 1998.
Ms Analiza, a Filipino, is not only Madam Lee's primary caregiver, but also sees to the household's needs even though it is not expected of her.
Madam Lee's husband, retiree Chong Koon Fah, 75, said in Mandarin: "Now, even if you ask Analiza to leave, she won't because we know each other so well already."
Her dedication towards us is beyond words. I cannot imagine how I could have cared for my two boys over the last 18 years without her.
- Madam Selvakumari
Who'll be the FDW of the year?
The 13th AEA(S) FDW and FDW Employer of the Year Awards 2015 will be held on Sunday in recognition of the contributions of FDWs to families in Singapore.
There are eight finalists for the FDW of the Year award.
The Award has been jointly given out by AEAS and the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) for the last four years.
All awards are sponsored by the Lee Foundation
The winner will receive $2,000.
The first runner-up and second runner-up will receive $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.
The remaining five finalists will each get $500.