While she was taking a shower, she heard one of her sons screaming.
When the mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Saadiah, rushed out, she saw her son Raqib, who is nearly three years old, sitting on a burning mattress.
"He was stretching his arms out towards me and screaming," she told The New Paper yesterday.
"I saw that his skin was burned. My mind went blank, except for one thought, which was to save my sons."
Madam Saadiah had left the toddler with his four-month-old brother on the mattress in the living room of the two-bedroom rental flat when she went to take a shower.
They were the only ones home when the fire broke out at their Block 51 unit in Circuit Road on Tuesday morning.
Her daughter, who is nearly two, was at a relative's home.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman told TNP yesterday that the cause of the fire was still under investigation.
The housewife, who is in her 20s, said she was shocked to see that the top half of the mattress where she had left her baby had caught fire.
Fortunately, he was no longer there. Instead, he was on another mattress about a metre away, crying but unharmed.
Madam Saadiah believes that Raqib could have saved his brother by moving him away when the fire started.
"Raqib had rolled his baby brother away from the fire and saved him," she said. "I think he sensed the danger his brother was in."
But Raqib had third-degree burns on his left arm and both legs.
"At that point, he still could walk and I took him and his baby brother to the neighbour's home," said Madam Saadiah.
"My neighbours are the only ones who leave their door open."
TNP reported on Wednesday that her neighbour, Mr Toh Muxeng, a 68-year-old retiree, had put out the fire with a scoop and a pail of water while his wife called for an ambulance.
Madam Saadiah said: "I have yet to thank them. I intend to thank them in person."
Raqib, who was warded in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), underwent a five-hour skin graft operation on Thursday, with skin taken from his thighs.
But he is on a long road to recovery.
Madam Saadiah said he is doing well but remains traumatised and cries often.
She and her baby were taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for smoke inhalation and breathlessness. She was treated as an outpatient and her baby was discharged from KKH on Thursday after he was transferred there.
On Thursday evening, a netizen posted on Facebook pictures of Raqib in the ICU and said the family was in need of donations.
He asked those wanting to donate to transfer money to a bank account belonging to Madam Saadiah's husband.
NO DONATIONS PLEASE
But Madam Saadiah said that her family is financially stable and asks only for prayers for Raqib's quick recovery.
"Please don't transfer money to the account number that has been posted online," she said. "We ask only for your prayers."
She said the netizen had visited the family in the hospital and spoken to her husband.
She declined to talk about her husband, who could not be contacted by TNP. According to the Facebook post, he is now jobless.
She requested the public not to visit her son in the hospital and to, instead, contact her through TNP if they insist on helping the family.
"We are touched that so many people want to help.
"But please understand that all we ask for now are your prayers and that we are given space and time during this period."
Madam Saadiah slept overnight at the ICU waiting area on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It is very painful to see my son in this condition. It is leaving me mentally and physically drained," she said
BOY'S BURNS ON A 'VERY LARGE AREA'
Raqib, who is nearly three years old, is understood to have suffered third-degree burns on 17 per cent of his body.
This is a "very large area", said Dr J.J. Chua, a plastic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
He said that it is serious for a child to have more than 10 per cent burns.
"For an adult, more than 15 per cent and they have to be hospitalised," he said.
"For a child, more than 10 per cent. And for an infant, anything more than 5 per cent. So 17 per cent is a very large area for a child."
He explained that burns on all five fingers and a palm are equivalent to 1 per cent.
"Imagine 17 times the size of a palm and five fingers being burnt," said Dr Chua.
"A whole face is only 3 per cent."
Raqib underwent a five-hour skin graft operation at KK Women's and Children's Hospital on Thursday.
Skin grafting involves taking skin from one area and placing it on another. In Raqib's case, skin was taken from his thigh.
WON'T HEAL FOR MONTHS
Dr Chua said: "Third-degree burns involve the whole thickness of the skin and do not heal for months and months.
"Scars will form when they heal and the skin will be thick, which might cause deformities."
Referring to skin grafting, he said: "Dead skin is removed (from burn areas) to reduce chances of infection.
"Healthy skin is taken from somewhere and placed on the areas affected. It is softer, gives better function and heals faster."
He said that plastic surgery must be done so that the joints and flexures can move properly.
"Without surgery, deformities might happen, preventing him from doing simple tasks, such as picking up a comb, brushing teeth or even buttoning a shirt," he said.
"But even with surgery, it is going to be a painful period of recovery."
This article was first published on May 23, 2015.
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