In 2008, Madam Wong Kuan Ying saw how a team of doctors and nurses looked after her relative in a hospital's intensive care unit over three months.
The relative recovered and Madam Wong, then a housewife, decided to join these doctors and nurses, inspired by their patience and selflessness.
Despite having only primary school education and a weak command of English, she applied for a job at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), underwent intensive training and did exercises in an English assessment book.
Madam Wong, now 54 and a certified senior healthcare assistant at IMH, was one of the winners at the annual Healthcare Humanity Awards yesterday.
"I have been through what the patients' families are going through, so I know they really need help," said Madam Wong, who looks after long- stay patients with intellectual disabilities.
At The Matrix@Biopolis yesterday, she received an honourable mention award, one of the highest accolades, from President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
In all, 62 healthcare professionals were recognised.
They include Ms Florence Cheong Wai Fong, 39, head of the department of occupational therapy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, who developed a skills assessment test for taxi drivers above 70, helping more than 3,800 taxi drivers work beyond the retirement age.
The awards is a legacy of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, epidemic in 2003, when healthcare staff risked their lives to care for infected patients.
"The recipients of the Healthcare Humanity Awards exemplify the values of courage, extraordinary dedication, selflessness, steadfastness in ethics, compassion and humanity in the course of their service," said Madam Kay Kuok, chairman of the board of directors of The Courage Fund, a group of five organisations that gave out the awards.