After External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the crash of an air ambulance and the death of its pilot on Monday night, Gitika, a Bangkok-based woman, tweeted, “They were the angels who were coming for airlifting our mom. You didn’t do anything for us but they were ready to help.” Gitika is the daughter-in-law of Shashi Agarwal, the 60-year-old patient who was to be airlifted by Medanta Hospital’s ill-fated air ambulance, which caught fire and crash-landed in Thailand’s Nakhon Pathom airport, about 730 km from Bangkok.
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Gitika, her husband Rachit, and father-in-law Rakesh were running from pillar-to-post for the past one month to get Shashi airlifted to India, and had requested for financial help from the Indian embassy and the External Affairs Minister. Shashi and her husband have been in Bangkok since mid-December, visiting their son and daughter-in-law, and were to return in February. However, Shashi fell ill in January. As her condition deteriorated from a case of pneumonia to a serious lung ailment, her family asked for help from the Indian government to airlift her back to India.
Gitika tweeted to Swaraj in February, but did not hear from her. The family then registered on the Madad portal — an online grievance redressal forum for overseas Indians in distress — but were only told about the prices of air ambulances. “We wanted to get her back to India. But she could not travel in a normal airplane as she needed continuous oxygen supply. The air ambulance prices in Bangkok were over Rs 35 lakh. So, we asked the Indian embassy for help,” said Rachit, who works as a chartered accountant in a private firm in Bangkok and has been living there for five years.
Eventually, they contacted Indian hospitals and Gurgaon-based Medanta agreed to airlift Shashi for Rs 23 lakh. “We borrowed money from relatives and friends… But, now we are back to where we were,” Rachit told The Indian Express over phone from Bangkok. Gitika added, “We feel so guilty for the doctors, the pilot and the nurse coming to take our mother home… We visited them in the hospital to see how they were doing and if they wanted some Indian food.” The family, which belongs to UP’s Rampur, is hoping that Medanta can airlift Shashi once they tide over the current crisis. “We understand that the hospital is busy… We hope she can be airlifted soon,” Gitika said.