In a rare case, doctors at the Western Command Hospital at Chandimandir have saved the life of a rabies patient. This is the second such case in the country. Sixteen-year-old Hira Singh from Gurdaspur was bitten by a stray dog on March 25 and was given four doses of the anti-rabies vaccine.
However, he slipped into coma by April 29 and was put on a ventilator. On May 8, he was shifted from a private hospital to the Command Hospital with a diagnosis of rabies.
“When I first checked the patient, he was not breathing, was absolutely unresponsive and in a critical comatose stage. I did not expect him to survive for more than 10 days. However, we decided not to give up and tried every possible treatment,” said Col F M H Ahmad, the treating neurologist.
The patient’s evaluation was carried out with the expertise of Armed Forces Medical College and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences, using the cutting-edge molecular techniques. AFMC reported a positive test of the virus. The skin biopsy from NIMHANS also confirmed the diagnosis of rabies.
“Normally, if a patient is detected with rabies, he is kept in an isolation ward to die. However, in this case, we decided not to leave the patient and experimented with every possible treatment. Experts from across India were contacted and the patient was given the best treatment. The credit also goes to the nursing staff who provided very good care,” Colonel Ahmad said.
Today, he does not need ventilator and is breathing on his own, he is smiling, and has started swallowing food. Though he is partially disabled — he can’t still talk or sit — the recovery is in progress. Doctors say it may take two years.
Besides Col Ahmad, other doctors in the team included cardiologist Brig N Aggarwal, nephrologist Col R Nair, endocrinologist Lt Col Hari Kumar and chest specialist Lt Col V Dutta.
Dr Vivek Lal, professor and head of neurology at PGI, who evaluated the clinical management of the patient, said, “I never imagined that I would ever get to see a rabies survivor in my lifetime.”
Col Ahmad said there were four rabies survivors in the country at present. “The first one was reported in April from the Goa Medical College and the details were published in the Journal of Clinical Sciences. The second case is that of Hira Singh. During interaction with the NIMHANS team led by Dr Madhusudana, the WHO expert on rabies, the existence of two more cases of rabies survivors, one from Mumbai and the other from NIMHANS, came to light,” Col Ahmad said.
Rabies is a deadly disease, transmitted by bites of various mammals, primarily dogs and bats. This disease is responsible for about 60,000 deaths yearly worldwide of which more than 30,000 are from India.