SINGAPORE - Madam Hemalatha Maramuthu, 40, a nurse manager from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, was on her rounds in August when she received a call from the Kuala Lumpur hospital her father was a patient in, informing her that he was in the intensive care unit.
He had had kidney failure since 2014, and his condition had suddenly deteriorated.
Madam Hemalatha, a Malaysian nurse, used to travel home to visit him every other weekend. She had taken emergency leave to care for him at the end of last year, and was not planning to take another stretch of leave this year.
So when she got the news, she did not know what to do.
She said: "It was a very hard moment. As we were in the middle of a pandemic, I couldn't just leave Singapore. I'm not the only one (healthcare worker). Everyone has an emergency."
When she told her senior manager that her father had died, her colleagues sprang into action so that she could return home.
The hospital approved her leave and arranged for her to get her polymerase chain reaction test done to enter Malaysia.
Colleagues contributed money for her trip, while one colleague ordered food for her as she stayed up overnight to pack. The next day, Aug 26, she was on a morning flight back to KL.
After spending 10 days quarantining in her Malaysian apartment in Petaling Jaya, she reunited with her family in Shah Alam, where the burial was held.
Madam Hemalatha, who is married with two daughters, aged eight and 10, said: "It was priceless being able to be there with my mum and my daughters at the funeral after not seeing them for a year. It gave me closure."
Madam Hemalatha stayed in KL for two months and returned to Singapore from Malaysia several days ago.
She said she appreciated what her colleagues did for her. "As much as we do our job to take care of our patients, we are also well taken care of by our hospital. This two-way relationship of care keeps me going and motivated to work hard at my job."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.