SINGAPORE (TABLA!) - Mr Vellaichamy Periyakaruppan was panic-stricken when he received news that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Several dark images immediately flashed through his mind. But he felt assured when he was told that he was going to be admitted to Sengkang General Hospital.
He was familiar with the hospital as he had worked there as a tile fitter for two years starting from May 2016 and helped build the very room where he was going to be warded.
"None of my loved ones were able to be with me at the time of my admission," said the 44-year-old, a father of two boys aged eight and 10. "Yet, returning to the place where I had worked before gave me strength and solace."
Mr Periyakaruppan's troubles with Covid-19 began on April 18 when he developed a bad headache and felt feverish. His colleagues urged him to "sleep it off", but he decided to alert his dormitory supervisor at PPT Lodge 1A in Punggol.
"There were 12 people staying in my room and I was worried because I had heard about a Covid-19 cluster forming at the neighbouring S11 Dormitory in March," said the worker from Sivagangai district in Tamil Nadu.
"The inhabitants of that dormitory would come to my dormitory to buy food. And workers from both dormitories would travel together on public buses to worksites."
He was isolated when his temperature climbed to 38.6 deg C and was later sent for a Covid-19 test.
The very next day, he was declared positive and admitted to Sengkang General Hospital (SKH).
"I had no fears lying in the ward because I was in a place I was familiar with," said Mr Periyakaruppan, who has been in Singapore for 22 years and is currently employed by Sim Kheng Hong Singapore.
He reassured his family over the phone that he would be all right soon.
"I was also happy because there was another Tamil man in the ward," he said.
"I decided to place my faith in God and Singapore's excellent healthcare system. I was sure my fever would subside."
Four days later, his fever did indeed subside. After being kept under observation for a few more days, he was moved to the community care facility at Singapore Expo on May 2.
Mr Periyakaruppan said that he now exercises on a daily basis and watches shows on his mobile phone.
He is also thrilled that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned him as "one worker" who "told his doctor that he had laid the tiles in the ward he was staying in" in PM Lee's May Day speech.
"I feel very proud that the Prime Minister mentioned me and am overwhelmed by the love and care that Singapore has shown me," he said.
"Singapore is a beautiful country with racial harmony and I was well taken care of by everyone regardless of race."
Dr Ng Yi Kang, the hospital's associate consultant gastroenterologist who had been treating him, said: "I told him that we are very grateful for his contribution and we will do our best to take care of him...
"Upon his safe discharge, I felt relieved. But, more than that, I felt privileged to be able to give back to our foreign workers who had built SKH for us."
Dr Hamid Rahmatullah, a Tamil-speaking associate consultant orthopaedic surgeon, also reassured Mr Periyakaruppan that he would be well looked after.
"I mentioned that once he has fully recovered, he will return to the dormitory," said Dr Hamid.
"I highlighted the importance of his and his peers' work towards building Singapore and that we recognise their contributions. I added that we will strive to look after them during this pandemic."
Mr Periyakaruppan feels that there is no need for migrant workers to rush back to their countries.
"Returning to your country does not mean that you can be in your home immediately," he said.
"There is a 14-day quarantine period.
"We do not know how safe the quarantine facilities are in our home countries. Singapore, by contrast, has a very reliable healthcare infrastructure.
"Moreover, for migrant workers like me who cannot read very well, Singapore has people who can explain things nicely in Tamil."
- This article first appeared in Tamil Murasu and tabla!