Left to fend for ourselves amid raging fire, say survivors

October 19, 2016 02:56 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:59 am IST - BHUBANESWAR:

At 7 p.m. on Monday, Bibhuti Bhushan Sahoo (30) was sharing lighter moments with his brother, suffering from cancer, to help him see through a scheduled chemotherapy session.

But moments later, holding his brother in his arms, Bibhuti was clueless how to descend from the cancer ward on the fourth floor of the blazing SUM Hospital. “Hospital staff kept telling us that the fire would be brought under control and there was no need to shift patients. But when the ward filled up with smoke and many of us, including nurses, felt suffocated, we decided to take it upon ourselves to come out from the hospital building,” said Bibhuti, who lost his cell phone that had contained beautiful moments with his brother.

When sudden and devastating fire engulfed the SUM Hospital patients and attendants were left to fend for themselves.

Chaos and confusion

Saibani Behera, a 40-year-old mother from Khalikote area, faced an even a tougher situation in evacuating her 18-year-old son, diagnosed with blood cancer, and another 70-year-old patient, whose son had stepped out of the hospital just before the fire broke out. It was not easy for her to push through the black smoke and chaos, but she made sure that two patients relying on her were not separated from her.

For the past two years, Saibani, a daily wage worker, has spent her hard-earned money as well as what she could borrow for the treatment of her son at the SUM Hospital. After six sessions of chemotherapy, the doctors had cleared her son, but six months ago, he again complained of pain. “The hospital had become like a second home for us. But the fire has shaken us. I don’t know if I would ever visit the hospital to resume the treatment,” she said.

For 19-year-old ITI student Lingaraj Chhotray, the fire was yet another in the series of ordealsover the past month. On September 17, he was returning on the Bhubaneswar-Tirupati Express. At Kuhudi station, when he was waiting to get off the train, the door swung shut. He lost balance and the fall trapped his legs under the train.While his left leg had to be amputated, plastic surgery was performed on his right foot.

As the fire broke out in the hospital, his brother and sister begged for a wheel chair to move him down from the third floor. “Later at AIIMS, I was in excruciating pain as my legs were dislodged from static position,” he said.

Survivors of the fire continued to narrate their harrowing experiences even as they are yet to settle for undergoing fresh treatment. They said they were fortunate that ambulances shifted them to the AIIMS within half-an-hour. But many injured kept waiting for an ambulance. Many patients who rushed out of the hospital building alive stare at a fresh challenge: losing records of their medical history and test results. The SUM Hospital has announced that it would bear the cost of treatment of those injured in the fire.

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