Close to three months since he lost his father and suffered multiple spinal injuries when a tree fell on him, Kalyan resident Santosh Singh (28) was discharged this week from the Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital with paraplegia, a condition that has rendered him paralysed waist down. The family of the sandwich stall owner fears that wheelchair-bound Singh will now be unable to work or travel.
On June 23, Singh was with his father Rajendra on Fashion Street in South Mumbai when a branch of a peepul tree collapsed on their sandwich stall.
The duo had been running the stall on rent for the last eight years. Another 75-year-old local resident, P V Bastian, succumbed to head injuries on the spot, while Rajendra died in GT hospital hours later, owing to multiple head and body injuries.
The mishap left four injured, including another vendor Ramvilas Soni (55), who suffered a fractured leg. Singh suffered three spinal fractures, multiple injuries on his chest and lost nerve sensations in all four limbs, with no sensation neck down.
“We conducted a surgery to decompress the spinal cord. His upper limb sensations have returned but the damage to nerves in the lower limbs was irreversible. There are only 1-2 per cent chances of recovering sensations in the legs,” said Dr Dhiraj Sonawane, chief spine surgeon.
After three months, Singh was discharged from the hospital on Thursday. He has four bed sores and needs rehabilitation and physiotherapy for which doctors have trained him. An NGO attached with the hospital has donated a wheelchair to him. “He has excellent recovery of strength in upper limbs. The aim of the surgery was to make him sit straight independently,” Sonawane added.
The family of four relied on earnings from the stall for their living. Every day the father-son duo would travel from Kalyan to South Mumbai for work.
Singh’s younger sister was married a month before the accident. “We took a loan of Rs 5 lakh for that. We also have a home loan to repay,” said Singh’s elder sister Reenu, who has now started looking for jobs to support the family.
While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Tree Department offered compensation of Rs 1 lakh for Rajendra’s death and Rs 50,000 for Singh’s injury, the family refused to accept the compensation.
“My father’s life was taken away. How will Rs 1 lakh compensate? I already spent close to Rs 1.5 lakh in Santosh’s surgery, and the hospital aided in repaying Rs 16 lakh through charitable trusts. We are borrowing money from relatives. If BMC wants to help, they must bear future medical expenses of my brother,” said Reenu.
The family visited BMC for medical aid. Officials from the department said as per norms, an injured person can only be offered Rs 50,000, while the kin of the deceased can avail Rs 1 lakh in tree-fall cases.
Jeetendra Pardeshi, superintendent of the Tree and Gardens Department in the BMC, said: “As per norms, a person injured with permanent disability can only be offered Rs 50,000. This is as per a resolution passed.”
According to a family friend Omprakash Singh, they hail from Varanasi where they have agricultural land but no one to do farming.
Singh now requires regular consultations at JJ Hospital, and each time the family has to arrange for an ambulance. “Yesterday, we took him for a sonography. Our money is running out,” his 56-year-old mother Rajkumari Singh said.