Cardiac casualties in Sabarimala is on the rise despite the improved healthcare facilities being provided by the Health department as well as various private agencies like the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Madurai-based Appolo Hospital at the pilgrim centre during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival.
A total of 20 pilgrims have succumbed to their cardiac ailments during the first 28 days of the ongoing pilgrimage season. The number of deaths due to cardiac ailments in Sabarimala during the same period in the previous year was only 17, according to official sources.
Lack of health awareness among the pilgrims can be attributed to this increase in the number of cardiac casualties in Sabarimala. It is noteworthy that the cardiac care facility in Sabarimala has improved with the Health department opening two modern cardiology centres at Appachimedu and Neelimala a month ago.
This is besides the state-of-the-art healthcare facility, with a mobile tele-medicine unit-cum-operation theatre, provided by AIMS at its Ayyappa Medical Centre at Pampa.
Dr. Ganapati Rao, head of the department of General Medicine at AIMS who led the medical team at Pampa during the previous Makaravilakku festival stressed the need for making pilgrims, especially those in the high risk group, aware of the risks involved in the arduous climb of Neelimala and Appachimedu hills on the Pampa-Sannidhanam trekking path.
Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Rao said a slow climb of the holy hillock with pure devotional spirit, instead of some sort of a sportsman spirit, could very well minimise the health risk to pilgrims in all age groups.
Mr. Thanchavur Damodaran, captain of the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom stretcher unit says the maximum number of heart attacks were reported from Appachimedu and as many as 11 pilgrims died of cardiac arrest at the Appachimedu cardiology centre alone.
Mr. Damodaran said ABASS has deployed its stretcher unit comprising 140 volunteers at Sannidhanam, Saramkuthi, Marakkoottom, Apapchimedu-Top, Appachimedu-Bottom, Neelimala-Top, Neelimala-Bottom and at Pampa, to extend an emergency helping hand to the pilgrims. He said the Sanghom volunteers have shifted 38 cardiac patients to Pampa from Sannidhanam as on December 12.
Dr. Sukumaran, head of General Medicine and Dr. George Koshy, Cardiologist at Pushpagiri Medical College suggest that pilgrims above the age of 50 years as well as patients under medication may undergo a medical check-up before undertaking the pilgrimage.
According to them, pilgrims should adopt a slow climbing technique with relaxation at regular intervals at different points in order to avoid complications.
Dr. Rao said, climbing the hills on an empty stomach is advisable to every pilgrim. Those who are under regular medication for hypertension, diabetes and so forth, should continue their medicines.