For eight minutes, an Indonesian maid continuously inserted her right hand into the mouth of a bedridden four-year-old boy to fish out a medical suction cap that had fallen in.
Kusrini Caslan Arja, 37, did not stop when his face turned purple and when her hand was smeared with blood from his mouth.
After Kusrini pleaded guilty yesterday to ill-treating the boy in his parents' flat on Nov 23 last year, Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Ji called for an 18-month jail term, saying the child was extremely vulnerable and could not seek help.
But District Judge Low Wee Ping said the prosecution's sentencing proposal was "manifestly excessive", adding that unlike those of other convicted foreign maids who had intentionally ill-treated children out of anger, Kusrini had not set out to harm the boy.
Judge Low said she was not a trained nurse, and footage from a CCTV camera placed near the boy's bed showed that the maid was trying to get the suction cap.
He added: "I'm sure (Kusrini) didn't intentionally want to do those things. She was desperately trying to pull the cap out."
The boy, who cannot be named due to a court order, has type one spinal muscular atrophy and needs support ventilation and oxygen.
Kusrini was hired by the boy's parents in March last year and they trained her to use a suction machine to remove phlegm from his windpipe.
The machine includes a suction cap that is attached to a tube, about the size of an adult's thumb.
Kusrini was told to place the suction cap only outside the boy's nose and lips.
Instead of following instructions, she inserted the suction cap into the boy's mouth that morning because she felt more phlegm could be removed in less time that way.
But when she inserted her fingers into his mouth about a minute later to remove the cap, she realised it was no longer there.
That was when she panicked and inserted her entire right hand into his mouth to try to retrieve it but failed.
The boy's parents returned at around 7pm and did not notice anything amiss at first.
But when they checked on him about two hours later, they found that his heart rate was high and the pump container of the suction machine was filled with blood.
His mother opened his mouth, found the cap and removed it with a pair of tweezers.
The boy was rushed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, where cuts were discovered inside his throat.
He was discharged two days later.
DPP Teo said Kusrini did not call for an ambulance and her employers, but tried to cover up by saying all was fine when the boy's father called that morning.
Yesterday, Judge Low turned to lawyer Mahmood Gaznavi, who was not involved in the case but present in court, and asked if he would represent Kusrini for her mitigation.
The lawyer agreed.
Before adjourning the case to March 23, Mr Low faulted the system for allowing maids to perform medical care even though they are untrained.
He added: "We employ domestic maids to be car washers, gardeners, plumbers, nurses, when they should not.
"When they do something wrong, we point fault at them."
For ill-treating the boy, she could be jailed for up to four years and fined up to $4,000.