June 2, 2021 10:50:22 am
As Mother’s Day messages flashed on her phone, Samrita and her brother Prabhjot, on May 9, were facing a cruel reality, performing the last rites of their parents at the same hour on the same day. Samrita lit the pyre of their 49-year-old mother Rashmin Kaur Matharu and Prabhjot, of their 55-year-old father Balbir Singh Matharu, as they stood strong for each other, knowing well that life would never be the same again.
Covid-19 had taken from them an indispensable part of their lives. “On May 8, within 14 hours of each other, in the same hospital, in nearby rooms, my parents were gone and our world crashed,” shares Samrita, who is pursuing her Masters in Pharmacovigilance and Clinical Research.
Samrita describes Rashmin and Balbir, both local residents, as best friends, loving companions and best parents to her and her two older brothers. “Both made an ideal couple, and did not survive even a day without each other. The three of us, all Covid positive, went to the hospital together and only I returned home,” sobs Samrita, describing her mother as her shield, who gave her constant support and love. “I am what I am because of her. She was a skin esthetician, entrepreneur, a passionate baker…a giving, vivacious, beautiful individual, who loved life and valued every bit of what it had to offer,” smiles Samrita, recalling that they were home isolated and were just experiencing some weakness after testing positive, but as her mother’s oxygen levels were fluctuating, they decided to get admitted to a hospital in Chandigarh. Later, after a few days, they shifted to another hospital in Mohali, where her parents passed on.
Sharing the arduous journey, Samrita says that as a patient and then someone who was closely watching her parent’s treatment, she firmly feels the staff lacked professional approach, sensitivity and human touch, so needed, as the fear around Covid-19 makes one vulnerable and insecure.
“There were times I felt they treated us in such an inhuman way because we were Covid positive. I feel apart from treatment, there is a need for clear communication with the family, as we just don’t know what is happening. My mother was in the ICU for many days, on high-flow oxygen, as her oxygen levels had dropped drastically, and she also needed blood, but in spite of so many calls to the ICU, we just could not connect with her, know how she was, or share some words with her. She was as isolated as we were, and I feel there must be a system.”
Samrita says as she was in the same hospital and did not need oxygen, drips or specialised medicines, she would check on her parents, who were in adjoining rooms, and also get a chance to sit with them and talk to them, till her mother was moved to the ICU. “I was in the hospital ward, appearing for my online exams, and I remember walking into my father’s room, on May 6, hours before my discharge, and he was looking very stressed and anxious, as he knew mom was in the ICU. He was having boiled eggs, asked about my older brother, Amitoj, who is in the United States, and gave me his phone and charger, something he never parts with, and told me to keep it. An industrialist, he gave instructions for Prabhjot, that he should pay salaries to the staff. We are into manufacturing ophthalmic surgical instruments for decades…and I told him, dad, it is a virus which will leave us in 12 days, and we will be home soon, together,” remembers Samrita, who returned home, feeling energetic.
She reached home at 9 pm, and minutes later, was told her father needed to be shifted to the ICU, and both she and her brother could not reach the number of the ICU. The next two days were a complete blur, with their father put on a ventilator on May 7. Late that night, he passed away in a cardiac care unit of the hospital.
“My brother and I were lost, helpless and distraught, with our brother in the States, on video call with us constantly, as Prabhjot went to the hospital to com0plete the formalities. I tried to reach the ICU where my mother was, but could not, for I didn’t want her to learn about dad, as I knew she would not be able to take it. I dreamt of her in the wee hours next morning, and felt her presence strongly. She hugged us, her children tight, and told us, we will be fine, we are together, don’t worry.” On May 8, Rashmin was put on the ventilator and within an hour she passed on, 14 hours after her husband.
“Later, a nurse who was attending to my mom, said Mamma was restless, kept asking for my father, she wanted to see him. She knew something was wrong. They went away, not seeing each other, not saying what they wanted to… Memories of them keep us going as we battle life. We said the final farewell to our parents on May 9, also ‘Mother’s Day’ and I being the brave girl that they would always want me to be, sat for my final exams a day later,” says Samrita, know that they live on…in them, through them.
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