For nine weeks, they looked after an ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee, till Thursday, when the former Prime Minister died at 5.05 pm due to pneumonia and multiple-organ failure. Following the loss of one of India’s tallest leaders, nurses and doctors at AIIMS who were treating him said that though the pressure over the last few days was intense, they were also fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve him.
“It is a little hard to describe what it’s like to suddenly see a frail man in his bed after you’ve grown up seeing him vivaciously giving speeches on television. I remember visuals from his visit to Pakistan on a bus very vividly,” said a nurse, who refused to speak officially, citing protocol.
In a statement, Dr Aarti Vij, chairperson of AIIMS media and protocol division, said: “It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of the former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at 05.05 pm on 16.08.2018… Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today. We join the nation in deeply mourning this great loss.”
Vajpayee was admitted on June 11, following a routine check-up. After doctors detected a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion, a team of five doctors was formed under the chairmanship of AIIMS director Randeep Guleria. Throughout that time, AIIMS sources said, the Prime Minister’s Office regularly monitored Vajpayee’s health.
Sources in AIIMS said the former PM’s health had started deteriorating last Saturday, before becoming critical on Wednesday. “By early afternoon, it was clear that the pneumonia had inflamed the air sacs in both lungs, which had filled with fluid. He was having trouble breathing and his organs had started shutting down,” said a doctor.
Sources said that frantic calls went out from the intensive care unit to the hospital administration, and Vajpayee was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support. ECMO provides prolonged cardiac and respiratory support, acting as artificial heart and lungs. As doctors tried to revive Vajpayee, anxiety spread across the political spectrum, and leaders from across the country, including the Prime Minister, came to AIIMS to visit him on Thursday.