Brain injuries have left Erwiana Sulistyaningsih unable to walk and struggling to see, her doctor in Indonesia says, adding that it is too early to tell whether the damage is permanent.
"Erwiana was beaten on the head for a period of at least six months. She couldn't have received her injuries any other way," said Dr Iman Fadhli, who has been treating the maid since she fled Hong Kong and the employer she claims tortured and abused her. Erwiana told medical staff her head was often slammed against the wall during beatings.
The employer was arrested yesterday after accusations of abuse by another former maid. Erwiana says she wants to return to Hong Kong to seek justice.
Fadhli, general surgeon at the Amal Sehat Islamic Hospital in Sragen, said a CAT scan on Wednesday showed that Erwiana's entire brain was swollen. She became dizzy when she stood and her vision was blurred.
"The brain is the centre of the body so anything can happen to her at this point. We are giving her medication to reduce the swelling and monitoring her condition very closely," Fadhli said. The double vision could have been caused by injuries to the face, he added. X-rays indicated she had a deviated septum, a displacement of the nose wall commonly caused by blunt impact.
A South China Morning Post reporter visited Erwiana in hospital yesterday. She is resting in a private room surrounded by relatives and visitors from her family's village in Ngawi, East Java. Relatives have laid down a mat against the wall of the room where they sit, while her parents sit at the head and foot of the bed.
Fadhli said Erwiana had been too weak to speak when reports first emerged of her situation; her emotional state had been fragile and she had trouble eating. She had now started to smile again.
Antik, a member of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Network, which is representing Erwiana, told the Post more details about the helper's case.
"When [one month into her employment] Erwiana escaped from her employer's home to … call her agency in Indonesia to complain, she hadn't been beaten yet," Antik said.
"She started getting beaten two days later, when she tried to steal biscuits to eat because she was so hungry, and her employer caught her and then beat her every day. She was also forced to take her meals, which consisted of three pieces of bread and one bowl of rice each day, in the bathroom instead of the kitchen."
Budi Sulistyono, city chief of Ngawi, pledged to co-operate with Hong Kong police and Labour Department officials who have arrived to take a statement.
"First, Erwiana has to become healthy before she can go back to Hong Kong ... but we fully support a legal suit against her employers and the agency in Hong Kong. Erwiana's agency in Indonesia also needs to take responsibility," Budi said after meeting Erwiana yesterday afternoon.
Asked whether Jakarta would offer more protection for the nearly 150,000 Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong, Budi said "agencies and employers have to be punished".
Under Article 3 of the 1997 Bill of Rights, the government has a duty to protect people from torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".
Labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung reiterated that the employer and agency would be held accountable if sufficient evidence was available.