“I am being intubated, Nirupama… I am not feeling good at all.” This was one of the last messages Dr Asheem Gupta sent to his wife on Saturday afternoon, just before he was put on the ventilator.
At 6.05 am Sunday, after a 21-day struggle, the 58-year-old senior consultant in the Department of Anaesthetics at the Delhi government’s Lok Nayak Hospital succumbed to Covid-19.
Believed to have contracted the virus while on duty in the hospital’s ICU, he had tested positive on June 3, Lok Nayak Hospital authorities said. He was admitted to the hospital’s ICU on June 7 and a day later, shifted to Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.
“He was actively involved in the hospital’s fight against Covid-19. He is irreplaceable,” Dr Suresh Kumar, Medical Director of Lok Nayal Hospital, said.
Dr Nirupama Gupta, a radiologist working in Noida, said she too had tested positive. “For two-three days, Asheem and I were home,” she says. “When his condition worsened, we both went to Lok Nayak Hospital and got ourselves admitted there. Next day, we shifted to Max, Saket. Asheem had co-morbidities. I recovered and returned home a few days ago, he didn’t.”
Of the East Delhi couple’s two sons, one is in Australia and couldn’t make it to the funeral Sunday afternoon. The other is an MBBS student in Dehradun.
Dr Nirupama said she kept in touch with her husband over WhatsApp and video calls. “He would message that he wasn’t well, and I would console him, tell him ‘you are a fighter’… He was sad,” she said.
The 58-year-old anaesthetist’s condition worsened after he developed a pulmonary embolism. He was given plasma therapy and responded well, but then deteriorated all of a sudden, Dr Nirupama said.
Dr Kumar, Lok Nayak Hospital’s Medical Director, said Dr Gupta was brought to the ICU with dipping oxygen levels. In a statement, the hospital said he was shifted to Max at his request.
Dr P Lal, Director of Surgery at Lok Nayak Hospital, recalled how Dr Gupta always looked out for patients from economically weaker backgrounds. “Gareeb hai sir, iska ilaaj kar dijiye, he used to tell me. He would go out of his way to help patients,” Dr Lal said.
Dr Anil Goyal, a friend and senior from KGMU in Lucknow, where Dr Gupta did his graduation and post-graduation, said it was the desire to serve the poor that drew him to join a government hospital. Dr Goyal, who has a hospital and urology centre in Krishna Nagar in Delhi, said, “I knew him for almost 38 years. Asheem joined Lok Nayak Hospital because he believed he could help more people in a government set-up. If an economically weaker patient needed help getting an ICU or ventilator or even basic treatment, Asheem would help. He was there for his friends, family members, colleagues and even strangers. This (his death) is gutting.”
Dr Vinay Aggarwal of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said his helpful and jovial nature made Dr Gupta extremely popular among the medical fraternity in East Delhi. “I will always remember him as full of life. We have lost a wonderful human being,” Dr Aggarwal said.
Dr Ajay Bedi, a fellow anaesthetist who was part of the East Delhi Branch of the IMA with Dr Gupta in 2014-15, said they had been close friends since 2008. “He was a sincere, honest, dedicated doctor who never took leave from work… This loss is heartbreaking.”
Around five days ago, Dr Bedi added, he sent an old photograph of the two of them at Manesar to Dr Gupta in hospital. It was captioned, “You’ll come back, Asheem!”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines