It was on January 13 that 28-year-old nurse Rajbir Kaur last went to work at the AIIMS pulmonary department. Just hours before she left the hospital, she made a call to her husband. “The doctor had informed her she should be admitted on January 16 for the delivery. She was excited. She said everything was normal. Over the next two days, we got arrangements done and at noon on January 16, she was admitted to the labour room,” said Manish Behl, husband of the nurse whose death has led to a face-off between resident doctors and nurses at the institute. Manish and his mother-in-law waited outside labour room for at least 18 hours, even as a tragedy unfolded inside. The couple had got married in November 2013, and had no children.
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With an inquiry committee likely to deliver its verdict on February 15 on allegations of medical negligence against five resident doctors involved in the delivery, Manish alleged an “11-hour delay” in performing a caesarian section led to the complications and death of Rajbir and the newborn. An interim committee has cleared the doctors.
Manish last spoke to Rajbir over the phone at 3 am on January 17. “She was crying in pain, not able to utter a word. I knew something had gone wrong. But little did I know things were out of control,” said Manish, who works as a software engineer in Gurgaon.
Manish said that at 7 pm on January 16, Rajbir’s “water bag” had ruptured, indicating that labour is imminent due to the rupture of the amniotic sac. “One of the nurses informed the water bag had ruptured. We waited outside. We weren’t told anything by the consultant or a senior resident. At 6 am, the doctor came to us saying it is an emergency — that the baby is going under severe bradycardia (slow heart rate) and that there is a need for caesarean, after which I gave the consent,” Manish said.
Manish said the doctors informed the family “almost an hour later” they could not save the newborn. “Rajbir was then rushed to ICU. One of her friends told me she was monitored properly during fetal distress. But we later found out she was given local anesthesia. This means a lower segment C-section was done without general anesthesia. That is the reason my wife was crying in pain,” alleged Manish.
“Many questions remain unanswered. Why was there an 11-hour delay? Was the consultant informed about the complications? My wife and baby were doing well. When we asked for documents related to treatment, they did not provide us details. I have now filed an RTI and a police complaint,” alleged Manish.
Manish alleged things then went out of control at the ICU, after doctors allegedly inserted an artificial breathing tube “into the food pipe instead of respiratory tract”.
“The artificial breathing tube had been inserted into the food pipe instead of the respiratory tract. Food particles had entered the lungs causing further complications. We were told her blood pressure was normal. But she was already brain dead by then,” he alleged.
Manish recalled how they had a “low-key celebration” on her birthday on January 11 because they were preparing for the delivery. “We shopped online for the baby. She had ordered everything in advance — from clothes to soft toys. We went for dinner that night; she showed me how the baby was reacting inside the womb. It was magical,” Manish said.
Rajbir hailed from a small village called Lalu Guman in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district. Back home, she was one of the first to have cleared an all-India entrance examination.