It can only be tragic irony that a man who lived his life dedicated to ensuring a dignified burial for unclaimed bodies, died all alone in a ward at a government hospital.
M.S. Sivakumar, who helped trace families of abandoned patients and helped orphans in hospital, died at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH) on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the 56-year-old was found lying unconscious beside his two-wheeler on EVR Periyar Salai opposite Central Station near Buhari Hotel. He had sustained a head injury.
Some passers-by and police who recognised him, admitted him to GH. An MRI and CT scan revealed a severe head injury. On Tuesday night, he underwent surgery.
However, around 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, doctors declared him dead.
When the Thane cyclone struck in 2012 and six sailors went missing, Mr. Sivakumar was one of the few people who rushed to help the families in distress.
Mr. Sivakumar drove from one hospital to the other, offering his services. The helpful social worker, clad in white, would frequent government hospital mortuaries, police stations and the courts. He regularly petitioned the Madras High Court for dignified burials of unclaimed bodies.
Mr. Sivakumar had been honoured by GH several years ago for his services, at a function organised by the surgical gastroenterology department.
The hospital’s resident medical officer (RMO) Anand Pratap was among those who visited him soon after his admission.
“He would take possession of unclaimed bodies for burial and would ensure that orphans who come to the hospital for treatment were admitted to orphanages. He was of great help in tracing relatives of patients who were abandoned at the hospital,” Dr. Pratap said.
In September, Mr. Sivakumar helped trace the family of an Assamese man who was found unconscious in the yard of Egmore railway station. After the man died at the hospital, Mr. Sivakumar traced his family based on a photocopy of a bank passbook found on the man.
However, on Wednesday when he died, there was no one at Mr. Sivakumar’s side. “It was sad that he became an orphan himself today,” the RMO said.
Mr. Sivakumar is a native of Ayalur village in Palakkad and used to take up documentation work in the real estate sector, according to his friend P.T. Ali.
K. Narayanan, who had known Mr. Sivakumar for the past year said he was taking care of his ailing elder sister who lived in Ayanavaram. Mr. Ali said he later traced and informed Mr. Sivakumar's family, who live in Thrissur, Kerala.