A retired hawaldar from the Indian Army has been running from post to pillar for the past three month in pursuit of availing treatment for his wife’s damaged liver.
On Monday night, his efforts finally came to fruition as his wife was admitted to PGIMER, however, not before he was informed by authorities in Jammu- his native place- that his wife had tested positive for COVID-19. “We decided to come to PGIMER, because all other hospitals had refused to admit my wife and had referred her to other hospitals. We were on our way from Jammu to Chandigarh, when we received a call that my wife had tested positive for COVID-19. That was just the breaking point for me,” says the 45-year-old former army personnel.
The journey of the 45-year-old and his wife is akin to the neglect and apathy faced by many others with serious and chronic non-COVID illnesses, who have been refused medical aid while all resources remain focussed on treatment for COVID-19 patients. “It felt like a punishment. I never thought that after serving the army I would be treated like this,” says the 45-year-old.
It was while returning from Delhi to Jammu on May 30, having been denied treatment at R and R Hospital in Delhi, that the couple were tested for COVID-19. “We went to R and R Hospital because we were told they have the facility to treat my wife’s liver, but the hospital refused to admit her because they said they are treating COVID-19 patients. On our way back to Jammu, we were tested for COVID-19 at the train station,” says the 45-year-old, who tested negative.
Apart from R and R Hospital, the couple had sought treatment at the Command Hospital in Udhampur, Fortis Hospital in Mohali and a number of local clinics and hospitals in and around Jammu before they finally coming to PGIMER.
Seeking treatment since February
The 45-year-old, who is employed as a security guard in Mumbai after retiring from the the army, found his wife in extreme discomfort and pain when he returned to his village near Akhnoor in February.
“She had a bloated stomach, was in severe pain and was unable to eat. She had been like that for a while so we began consulting local hospitals and we were told that more than 80 per cent of her liver is damaged,” says the 45-year-old.
In early March, the man decided to take his wife to Mohali’s Fortis Hospital for treatment, where she was admitted for a week and prescribed medicines for her liver damage. “We returned home, she did get some relief, but we were told by a doctor in Fortis that she will ultimately need a liver transplant which they will not be able to perform so we will have to seek treatment elsewhere,” says the 45-year-old.
Due to the lockdown, the couple could not consult any other hospital until mid May, while the wife’s health continued to deteriorate. “She was in so much pain, I could not watch her like that and decided to get a pass and go elsewhere,” says the former army personnel.
In mid-May, the couple began their arduous journey, shuttling between hospitals in Jammu to no avail. They were denied treatment at the Command Hospital in Udhampur before they were also denied treatment at R and R Hospital. “After heading back to Jammu through train, we decided that our only options are PGIMER and AIIMS in Delhi,” says the man.
Waited outside PGI for three hours
Even at PGIMER, the couple who had travelled to Chandigarh in a car along with another relative from Jammu, had to wait for hours before they were allowed to enter.
Since the 40-year-old patient had tested positive for COVID-19 en route to the hospital, they were first not allowed to enter the hospital.
“We waited outside gate no 3 for more than three hours when finally, at 11 pm we were allowed enter the hospital. We were told they do not admit COVID patients,” says the man. The hospital’s spokesperson claims that the patient was admitted to the hospital at 10 pm on Monday.
Meanwhile, sources from PGIMER confirmed that the woman will have to be placed on conservative treatment and be closely observed by the department of Hepatology before she can receive a liver transplant. Although the patient is stable at present, she is suffering with severe pain due to her swollen abdomen.
“Patients with such severe liver damage are likely to develop more serious symptoms and have to be carefully observed. There are reports of higher rates of mortality in coronavirus patients with underlying liver disease,” says a hepatologist at PGIMER.
“They have not even shown the report to me and I have no clue what will happen to my wife now. If she had received treatment for her liver on time, may be she would not have been exposed to the virus,” says the 45-year-old, who is currently residing in a sarai at PGIMER.
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