She will never forget that Monday in June 2015 when her son tipped over a frying pan containing hot oil she had left to cool on the kitchen countertop.
Madam Masshitah Abdullah’s only child screamed as the oil scalded his face, body and arms.
The toddler is still undergoing laser treatment for second-degree burns, and is expected to undergo skin grafting this year. His medical bills have already exceeded $200,000.
Madam Masshitah has used the episode to help others who have suffered similar heartache.
On Jan 10, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin told Parliament that, between 2011 and 2015, there were 580 cases per year on average of children below the age of 16 years suffering burns.
He said about half of the cases involved kids below three years old, and more than three quarters of the cases occurred at home. And half of them occurred in kitchens.
Madam Masshitah, 33, said she was cooking when her helper brought her then 15-month old son, Aafaa Zuhayr Muhammad Al-Khair, to the kitchen. It was then that tragedy struck.
She said Aafaa, now three, is experiencing developmental issues, including symptoms of trauma, such as being unable to speak and being afraid of people.
Madam Masshitah, who runs a support group for parents of burn victims, said she gets at least one call or request for help every two to three days.
“No parent wants to experience this. We can take all kinds of precautions, but all it takes is one careless mistake,” she said.
She quit her job as a marketing manager to stay home to look after Aafaa. To supplement the family income, she runs a small business selling aloe vera products from home.
Madam Masshitah said she and her husband, Mr Muhammad Al-Khair Salahuddin, 32, will not contemplate having a second child until Aafaa completes his treatment and stabilises.
“While we thought about having another child, so Aafaa can have a friend and companion, we cannot do so right now.”
Madam Masshitah said parents must be alert and not to be complacent with their helpers.
From the calls she has received, she recounted an incident of a child who was scalded in the shower. Another was hurt when a helper tried to calm the child while holding an open thermos flask of hot water.
Ms Jess Ang, general manager at Aria, a foreign domestic worker skills training centre, said training is available for such workers on how to handle emergencies involving a child. They can also learn about basic prevention methods such as not handling power sockets with wet hands.
Madam Masshitah hopes Aafaa will be able to lead a normal life in the future.
She said: ” Of course, it won’t be easy, with the treatments he will still need to undergo. But with the early intervention programme and care, I hope he will be fine.”
Next page: Tips on preventing burns