Death is the only certainty here, rest is just chance

Nearly 20 lives are lost every day at the hospital in Gorakhpur, where a recent night played havoc with hopes of the young, leaving parents with no sense of closure

August 19, 2017 10:10 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 12:27 pm IST - GORAKHPUR

A hospital staff checks newly arrived oxygen cylinders at Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur.

A hospital staff checks newly arrived oxygen cylinders at Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur.

For one family, it is the first day of school that their five-year-old girl was looking forward to, but will never see; for another, it is the celebration planned for the newborn twins conceived after eight years of trying, but cancelled as they never came home.

Over a week after oxygen supply ran out in Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRD) here on August 10 and 11, families of the children who died in the neonatal and paediatrics intensive care units and the encephalitis ward that day have no answers; only stories of lives cut short and hopes dashed. A total of 567, 668 and 587 children died in the hospital in the month of August in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, which means 18 to 21 dead children a day.

Paying no heed

Given the high prevalence of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in the region during the monsoon, several doctors that The Hindu spoke to said that most of the children brought in could not have been saved. But the fact remains that the authorities, including the suspended Principal, Rajeev Mishra, did not respond to repeated reminders from the oxygen supplier, Pushpa Sales, to clear pending payments. If the bills were not cleared, it had warned, the supply might be stopped.

The company for its part has claimed that it did not cut supply despite outstanding bills. As the government probes the matter, families left devastated are struggling to make sense of their loss. Bahadur Nishad, a resident of Gulhariya in Gorakhpur district, says his four-year-old son, Deepak, was one of the “first to die” on August 10, when the oxygen supply ran out.

 

Deepak had started vomiting and was getting seizures, which is symptomatic of AES, on August 9, when his father rushed him to “medical”, as the institute is referred to locally. Mr. Nishad says that since the U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was visiting the hospital that day, the doctors did not pay attention to his son for about four hours.

“Then they put a pipe [for oxygen] but I don’t know whether it was working. We later heard that the oxygen was stopped. This shows the irresponsibility of the hospital. I hope this happens to them, I hope they understand what they did,” he says.

The only lesson that he learnt was never to go back to this hospital. When his 17-month-old son Dibakar fell ill after Deepak’s passing, Mr. Nishad decided to borrow ₹2,000 from his in-laws and take him to a private hospital. He is doing better now, he says.

Death of a girl

Mohammed Zahid, a resident of Bichhiya in Gorakhpur, lost his five-year-old daughter Kushi, who had respiratory problems as a result of AES, on August 11 at BRD.

“She was fine till 6 a.m. when the oxygen was on. After 6 a.m. and till 5 p.m., the staff removed the oxygen pipe and gave us an AMBU bag. They told us to keep pumping. They made us do this five times for about an hour each that day, in between liquid oxygen,” Mr. Zahid says.

Around 6 p.m., he complained to the doctors that Kushi’s body had become cold. But he was told that the treatment was on. At 10 p.m., the doctors told the family that Kushi had died. The death certificate given to the family cites “cardiorespiratory failure” as the cause of death.

“She was looking forward to starting school. She wanted to study in the private English-medium school where her brother studies. We were going to get her admitted soon,” says Mr. Zahid. Kushi was not her “real name”.

The family was thinking of what to name her officially when she was admitted to school, says her grandfather, Ilahi.

In the Belipar area, Anara Devi rues the fact her twin grandchildren, a boy and a girl, born on August 2 at another government hospital, never got a chance to come home.

After eight years of trying and spending on expensive fertility treatment, the children were born “normal”, she says, but soon developed complications due to low birth weight and respiratory problems. They were referred to BRD on August 3.

Doctors say the crisis has been given a political colour as the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat, which Yogi Adityanath represents, will be vacated by him soon.

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