A nine-year-old boy suffering from dengue died after consuming what doctors suspect to be a massage oil kept beside his hospital bed by his mother.
Forensic experts who conducted his post-mortem Sunday have reserved the final cause of death but suspect he succumbed to poisoning that was aggravated by low immunity from dengue. The family of the boy from Jogeshwari slums claims there was a delay in initiating treatment because doctors could not assess what led to the suspected poisoning.
Ankit Bairagi was admitted on October 12 in the Vile Parle-based Dr RN Cooper Hospital after he complained of high fever. His mother, Naina Bairagi, said he shared a cot with another girl because the paediatric ward was crowded. He showed dengue-like symptoms and was put on symptomatic treatment a fortnight ago.
The boy’s mother said she had kept a bottle of massage oil on the table beside Ankit’s bed. “I often have pain in my knee joints. A hospital security guard had given me a liquid to massage (on my joints) to relieve the pain. I had kept it in a plastic bottle near his cot. It was a colourless liquid,” said Naina.
According to the mother, around 3 pm Friday, Ankit drank from the same bottle mistaking it for drinking water. The mother further claimed that the oil was so potent that it burnt a plastic cup. “He started vomiting within minutes and turned pale,” she added. She alleged that doctors gave him an injection only half-an-hour after he consumed the “massage oil”.
“He vomited the entire day,” she said. By Friday night, when his condition worsened, doctors told her they would have to wait before initiating any course of medical treatment to ascertain what poison he had allegedly consumed.
On Saturday morning, Ankit was put on ventilator support. By evening, he had died.
Relatives said they could see froth coming out of his mouth. “Towards the end, he had turned pale, cold and dehydrated. A green froth kept coming out of his mouth,” said Sangeeta Bairagi, a relative. Forensic experts have reserved samples of his organs, including the stomach, intestines, kidney and liver, for chemical analysis at the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory.
“It is difficult to say whether dengue or the massage lotion led to multiple organ failure. It is also possible that dengue immuno-compromised his condition and the poison’s effect worsened his health,” said a forensic expert from Cooper Hospital.
The doctors, however, said the tables adjacent every cot were strictly meant for keeping medicines. “It has to be inquired why a bottle with lotion was kept on the table,” said a doctor from the hospital.
While the family admitted that the consumption was by accident, they blamed the hospital for delaying the initiation of treatment. An on-duty medical officer told The Indian Express Sunday: “The doctors could not begin treatment or give antidote unless the type of poison was known. The boy was being treated for dengue-like symptoms. When he consumed the unknown substance, we had to first assess which poison he drank.”