Maid in ICU with swelling in her brain after cycling in Pulau Ubin

Calapini Marilou Garcia was conscious when she was taken to Changi General Hospital, but her condition deteriorated quickly.
Calapini Marilou Garcia was conscious when she was taken to Changi General Hospital, but her condition deteriorated quickly.PHOTO: JEANETTE MOK

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - A Filipino domestic worker who went cycling with two friends on Pulau Ubin on Sept 27 ended up in intensive care in hospital for 10 days.

Ms Calapini Marilou Garcia, 50, underwent two operations because of swelling in her brain.

Exactly what happened to her on that Sunday outing remains unclear as her friends only suspected that something was amiss after they had reached the bottom of a slope without her.

Shortly thereafter, they backtracked and were shocked to find Ms Marilou lying on the ground in a daze next to her rented bicycle.

All three riders were not wearing helmets.

"She was still conscious. There were no bruises or bleeding, but she kept saying that she was feeling giddy as she was lying on my lap," Ms Clarissa Rigdao, one of the friends, told The New Paper (TNP).

Two passers-by, who also stopped by to help, called the police.

Ms Rigdao said that her friend started vomiting before the police arrived.

Her employer, Madam Jeanette Mok, told TNP that Ms Garcia was conscious when she was taken to Changi General Hospital, but her condition deteriorated quickly.

Ms Calapini Marilou Garcia (second from right) with her family. PHOTO: JEANETTE MOK

The doctors had to perform two procedures - the first to insert a pressure monitor into her brain and the second to remove a part of her skull to ease the increasing pressure because of the swelling in her brain.

Madam Mok, a 37-year-old couples counsellor , said: "The surgeon told us that based on the areas of the brain that were injured, she could lose her ability to speak, her motor functions and her memory."

Early last week, though, Ms Garcia showed signs of recovery as she was able to move her eyes and squeeze her fingers.

On Monday, Madam Mok arranged a video call between Ms Garcia and her family in Ilocos Norte, Philippines.

Ms Garcia was able to wave to them and even recognised her teenage son.

On Wednesday, she was moved to a high-dependency ward after 10 days in the intensive care unit.

Ms Garcia, who also has a daughter, has been working in Singapore for almost 20 years. She started working for Madam Mok in January this year.

Throughout Ms Garcia's ordeal, Madam Mok said she and her husband, Mr Brian Mak, 37, have been waiting anxiously for good news.

She recalled how they were extremely worried when their domestic worker failed to return home on the day of the accident.

Ms Garcia, who was always home by 9pm on her days off, also did not return her calls and messages.

They learnt of her accident only after they went to the police to report her missing on Monday morning.

Madam Mok said: "She is not someone who would be out partying. I thought that maybe she had been kidnapped or even killed."

Describing Ms Garcia as responsible, conscientious and caring, Madam Mok added: "She takes care of us very well. She is also affectionate towards our pet dog and spoils him regularly.

"This ordeal has been difficult because she is a good person and we cannot believe something like this has happened to her."

Ms Rigdao, who has known Ms Garcia for about five years, described her friend as cheerful, bubbly and said she was like an older sister to her.

Mr Steven Lim, vice-president (safety and education) of the Singapore Cycling Federation, said: "The helmet is a mandatory requirement for anyone cycling on Singapore roads.

"Rules aside, it is about taking precautionary measures against serious injuries. A helmet will protect the cyclist should he encounter a fall and run the risk of a serious head injury."

Mr Lim said cyclists should bring their own helmets when renting bicycles as rental of helmets may not be feasible for hygiene reasons.

Madam Mok said the hospital bill has reached $52,000 so far, while the insurance coverage is only up to $20,000.

The couple have gone on fund-raising platform to raise money, as the total bill is estimated to exceed $200,000. As of Saturday (Oct 10) afternoon, more than $76,000 had been raised.