Baby severely burnt by heat pads

SINGAPORE - Having put the one-year-old baby girl to bed, the paid babysitter left the two-room flat at 6pm for a quick trip to the supermarket to buy bread.

She told her husband and now seven-year-old son, who were watching cartoons in the next room, to keep an eye on her charge.

Her husband had been cooling some boiled heat packs on a queen-sized bed, next to a small mattress where the girl lay.

When the babysitter, who wanted to be known as Ms Mardianah, got back half an hour later, the girl was lying with her back atop the packs.

"Her eyes were open, but she didn't make any sound," Ms Mardianah, 30, told The New Paper on Thursday of the Oct 31, 2011 event.

Feeling "totally scared", she immediately scooped up the baby, whose skin had turned red. She said: "I didn't know what to do, I asked my husband what to do. He said to wash with cold water so I did it, and wrapped her with a towel."

The two then rushed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital in a taxi, phoning the girl's mother on the way.

A medical report said the baby suffered burn injuries to 35 per cent of her body, including the face, neck, upper limbs, chest, back, thighs and buttocks.

She was hospitalised till Jan 6 last year and had 12 operations for her burn injuries, as well as longterm scar management therapy.

Ms Mardianah said of the doctors' initial treatment, which lasted 10 to 15 minutes: "(The baby) grabbed me, she didn't want to let go. "She didn't cry, tears didn't come out. But she was screaming for very long."

Her husband, Mohammad Shahrin Akbar, 31, was jailed three months on Wednesday for causing grievous hurt by negligence.

Ms Mardianah said he had been selling heat packs for the past three to four years.

The reusable heat packs were imported from China and sold at flea markets and night bazaars. In September that year, he opened a distribution company with the packs as his main product.

Boiling water

He had submerged 22 of these packs for about 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water that day to soften and recycle them. He then laid them on the bed to cool them.

Ms Mardianah said she had been babysitting for about eight years, with the girl being her third charge.

She had been caring for the baby for $350 to $400 for almost a year, after the baby's grandmother responded to an online advertisement.

"(My husband) sympathises with their family for what happened," she said, adding she missed seeing the baby.

"I treat her like my own kid; when she's not around I feel lonely."

While she has a nine-year-old daughter of her own, she has not met her for the past four years, said Ms Mardianah. The daughter is from her first marriage and her own mother does not agree with her current marriage, she said.

She said the baby's family would leave the child with her sometimes for weeks. The baby had been staying with her for three nights prior to the incident, she said, adding the family would drop the child off at her house, or meet her at a void deck or nearby supermarket.

She said the child's mother was working and divorced.

Ms Mardianah said she bought many things for the baby in her care - a pram, a $100 baby swing , dresses and shoes, and Hari Raya clothes.

Currently unemployed, she said she doesn't think she will babysit again.

"This incident wasn't on purpose, but was very big for me. If I babysit again, I would be scared even to face minor problems."


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