"The suction cap left in the victim's throat could have caused choking."
She was hired to take care of the 4-year-old bedridden boy, who was suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He also needed support ventilation and oxygen.
Boy’s life endangered
The chief duty of Indonesian maid Kusrini Bt Caslan Arja was to take care of the sick little boy, who sometimes also needed to be resuscitated, and to clear the phlegm and mucus from his throat, using a suction machine.
According to Channel NewsAsia, the boy’s mother, also a nurse, had trained the maid adequately on how to use the medical device. She had been given specific instructions to place the suction cap (about the same size as an adult’s thumb), only on the child’s nose and lips, and never inside the mouth.
On the fatal day, Kusrini felt that the boy had more phlegm than usual, and hence decided to use the suction device. According to The Straits Times, she inserted the cap into the boy’s mouth, assuming that it would help in extracting more amount of phlegm, and faster too.
However, to her shock, the cap got stuck in the boy’s throat. Try as she might, she was unable to dislodge it using her fingers. She got all panicky and put her right hand into the boy’s mouth to remove the cap. She apparently did this for a full 8 minutes.
By now, the little boy had turned purple and was bleeding.
Tried to hide mistake
Sensing danger, the maid briefly kept an oxygen mask over the boy’s mouth. Then she removed it and went back to digging for the cap again. The cap wouldn’t budge.
Not wanting to be caught, she cleaned up all the blood on his mouth and clothes. However, the boy’s parents had noticed her giving oxygen through CCTV camera footage and called to check if everything was okay. She assured them that all was well.
Only when they came home that evening did they realise that something was terribly wrong.
The boy’s heart rate was high, and the pump container of the suction machine was filled with blood. Fearing the worst, the mum opened her child’s mouth and saw the cap in his throat. She removed it using a pair of tweezers and called the ambulance and police.
Kusrini continued to remain silent when confronted.
The boy was rushed to KK Hospital hospital; he was found to have cuts in his throat. He had to be admitted for 2 days.
The video of the incident was captured on CCTV camera, and that’s how the entire sequence came to light. Apparently, the cap was stuck in the boy’s throat for almost 12 hours!
Maid found guilty
The case is being tried in court now. Kusrini has confessed to her mistake and appears ashamed and remorseful.
According to The Straits Times, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Teo Lu Jia has called for a strict jail term, saying the maid had endangered the boy’s life and, “the suction cap left in the victim’s throat could have caused choking.” She had also tried to cover up her mistake, instead of getting help.
District Judge Low Wee Ping however thinks that the abuse might not have been intentional. He has been quoted as saying, “The system (may) be at fault for allowing maids to perform such (medical) work”.
“We employ maids too generally … (we) employ them as car washers, plumbers, house painters, medical care givers … when we shouldn’t be. And when they do something wrong, we point our (fingers) at them.”
The case continues to be debated in court.
Leaving your child in a maid’s care
Leaving a sick, bedridden child, in a maid’s care, is a huge responsibility. How do we know for sure if the maid is looking after the child, and following instructions properly? Especially if the child is unable to talk or communicate? Here is what might help:
- Hire experienced hands : When on the lookout for someone to take care of your little one, always check if she has prior experience in doing so. Inexperienced hands may lack the maturity and patience to deal with your child. If the child is sick and needs specific medical care, you might want to look out for someone who is trained to do so.
- Lay out the rules : Right from the beginning, your maid should be aware of the house rules. Be specific about house rules, such as work that needs to be completed everyday, use of handphone, leaving the house without permission etc.
- Communication and training : Wherever possible, write down specific instructions to be followed, and put it up on the wall, or on the fridge. You might even want to take some time off work to train your maid in the initial days, until she gets used to your home environment. Teach her how exactly to take care of your child.
- Set clear guidelines : Explain to your maid on how she should treat your child. Be clear on whether she is allowed to discipline your child, and how she is to do that. Sometimes leaving things unsaid could cause her to use her own tactics, which may not be how you like things done.
- Observe your child for warning signs : Monitor your child. Is he sleepier than normal or not eating well? Check his body for any signs of bruising. Pay attention when he seems scared around the maid.
- CCTV Cameras : This allows us to know what’s happening in our homes, even when we are on the go. It is however important to let the maid know of the existence of such a camera, lest she complains of breach of privacy.
- Pop-in-unannounced : Don’t stick to fixed timings. Come home early once in while to see what’s really happening.
- Encourage honesty : Always encourage your maid to be honest with you. So if your baby falls down or hits himself somewhere, ask your maid for specific details and encourage her to be honest about it. Give her constructive feedback, and refrain from abusing her. If the child gets injured, or gets hurt, the maid should know that it is her duty to immediately inform her employer.
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