SINGAPORE - When real estate broker Teressa Tay was admitted to hospital on Sept 24, she did not want to disclose her ward number to her helper, Siti Musyafaah. The 56-year-old did not want to affect Siti's Hari Raya Haji celebrations.
However, after the 39-year-old found out about her employer's illness, she rushed to the hospital. Ms Tay told Lianhe Wanbao that Ms Siti cried as she was overcome with guilt. She told Ms Tay: "Ma'am, I'm sorry, when you need me, I am not by your side."
After undergoing surgery,Ms Tay's face and left arm became stiff, and she was also unable to rotate her neck. She said: "I was unable to speak, I could not make facial expressions and even a smile was very difficult."
The single mother, who has three children, added that when her physical therapist could not help her, she felt hopeless. It was her maid that stood by her.
Ms Siti came to Singapore in 2010 from Indonesia and has worked at Ms Tay's household for five and a half years.
When Ms Tay's illness hit, Ms Siti worked tirelessly to help her through her rehabilitation, which would often take up to seven or eight hours a day.
Ms Tay said that when she feels the pain during her arm exercises, Ms Siti would encourage her, saying: "Ma'am, one day, you will be better. You have to be strong to face it, I'll help you."
Three months after her operation, Ms Tay woke up and was pleasantly surprised to find that she could rotate her neck. Soon after, she regained movement in her left hand, her facial muscles returned to normal and the stiffness in her back disappeared.
Ms Tay was so overjoyed that she wanted to give Ms Siti a cash reward. But Ms Siti rejected it, saying that it was her responsibilty to take care of her and that she was not doing it for the money.
Both women enjoy such a good working relationship that Ms Siti nominated Ms Tay and her family as a good employer and vice versa under the FDW & Employer of the year 2015 Awards by Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST).
Ms Siti explained that when she first arrived in Singapore, her command of English was not good, but Ms Tay was patient enough to teach her. She said: "Ms Tay and her children taught me how to speak English. They also corrected my spelling. My English has improved a lot and I love her children, because they respect me and have never regarded me as a maid."
Ms Siti also revealed that when she just started working for the family, she would wait for the family to finish dinner before eating. But Ms Tay insisted that she eat the same time as them. She said: "I can enjoy all the food on the table, even the expensive dishes, such as the annual Lunar New Year abalone and shark fin. They really treat me as part of the family."
Ms Tay had also bought Ms Siti an iPhone, and gave one more to her son. She taught her how to make free international calls to save money and granted her leave during her birthday.
Siti said: "Sometimes, my family needs money, she will lend it to me. I'm very lucky to have such a good employer."