Woman lauded in National Day Rally speech for helping MRT passenger sees it as a duty
By Melissa Pang, The Straits Times, 8 Sep 2012
MOST people would be flattered to be mentioned by the Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech.
But Ms Sathiyawathi Ganeson, 25, squirmed uncomfortably in her seat and smiled sheepishly when the matter was brought up at an interview on Thursday.
She was lauded for her gracious act in helping a sick passenger on an MRT train.
"Actually, I really didn't expect this," said the Malaysian who has worked in Alexandra Hospital for a year.
"I really don't know what to say also," added Ms Ganeson.
In Mr Lee Hsien Loong's annual National Day Rally address last month, he expressed concern over Singaporeans' attitudes towards foreigners. Foreigners behaving badly evoke overwhelming condemnation but good deeds largely go unnoticed. Bad Singaporean behaviour, however, is ignored.
He cited a Straits Times Forum letter about a sick woman on an MRT train - she was ignored by everyone but a foreign nurse came to her aid.
No one filmed the incident and there was no Internet response to the letter.
Recalling the July incident, the soft-spoken woman said she was on a Circle Line train headed to Yishun after work. It was around 10.30pm on a Sunday when she boarded and sat at a corner.
When the sick woman, who looked to be in her 20s or 30s, began to vomit, some commuters offered her tissue paper. But everyone moved out of the carriage, repulsed by the smell.
Ms Ganeson asked around for a plastic bag, which she got from a passenger who was using it to carry food.
She stayed behind to hold the bag for the sick woman, accompanying her for about 10 minutes until she was well enough to alight.
She "neither cringed nor looked away when some of the vomit landed on her", said a passenger who wrote to The Straits Times Forum page, commending her actions.
"I didn't expect this, because for me, it's a matter of responsibility. Whether inside or outside the hospital, I'm a nurse," said the shy and petite woman, looking to her supervisor who was present at the interview for support.
For her good deed, Ms Ganeson received a Carebear from the chief executive of Alexandra Hospital and a box of chocolates from the director of nursing.
The youngest of a family of five based in Kuala Lumpur was also congratulated by her siblings, who expect a treat.
She returns to Kuala Lumpur twice a month to visit her retired parents, both 51, who live with her software engineer brother, 27. Her eldest sister, 29, is a clinical instructor in a nursing college.
It was her sister who inspired her to be a nurse, said Ms Ganeson, who at 20 decided she wanted to be one. She pursued a three-year diploma in nursing at a private college in Kuala Lumpur and worked as an administrator before landing her current job.
Though she has lived in Singapore for just one year, she feels right at home.
"It's a new experience. But I feel comfortable here and at work. Even though my colleagues are all from different countries and different races, we are always together, sharing and motivating each other," she said.