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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Surviving low oxygen, 18 days on ventilator, with brothers who never left her side

The brothers rented a room near AIIMS and bore the expenses for Rinku's treatment, even as Satish still kept away.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: June 2, 2021 7:02:57 am
Rakesh (left) and Rajnish with Rinku at their home in Ramchua, Banka.

It is a story of abandonment. It is also a story of unconditional love, grit and resilience — helping Rinku Singh, 47, survive a battle of 53 days against Covid, coming back from an oxygen saturation level of 18 and ventilator support.

It was in the beginning of April that Rinku, a resident of Madhopur village in Munger, started feeling ill. As that graduated to breathlessness, her husband Satish Prasad Singh got her admitted to JLN Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur.

With Covid surging at the time, Rinku found herself all alone in an overcrowded ward with hardly any attendants around, as a scared Satish kept away. An employee with a firm at Kahalgaon near Bhagalpur, he moved into a room on rent near the hospital. They have one son, a law student in Kolkata, and a daughter, who is married.

With Rinku in need of someone to take care of her, her younger brother Rajnish, a farmer based in Ramchua village of Banka, rushed to Bhagalpur. Rajnish recalls, “The day I visited Rinku, even her oxygen mask was not on properly.” While he initially stayed with a friend, he decided to move into the Covid ward with Rinku despite the risk.

For the next four days that they were in the ward, Rajnish says, he had to struggle for even food, and ended up sharing meals with Rinku. “No one including her husband bothered to provide food,” he says.

Meanwhile, Rinku’s condition worsened. As her oxygen level dropped to 40, she was shifted to ICU, but her SPO2 did not stabilise.

Rajnish claims JLN Hospital had no attendants even in the ICU, with relatives forced to look after patients. Dr Hemshankar Sharma, the Covid ward in-charge at the hospital, denies this, but he admits to staff constraints.

When Rinku’s SPO2 fell to an alarming 18, a doctor advised Rajnish to shift her to a hospital that could provide her better care.

Rajnish called up elder brother Rakesh, a former IAF non-commissioned officer and an advocate at the Supreme Court, and the latter drove down from Delhi. With the help of a cousin, who knows a Bihar minister, they managed to get Rinku a bed at AIIMS, Patna.

The travails of the family, however, continued, with the ambulance that was carrying Rinku to Patna breaking down. They waited by the side of the road for three hours for the next ambulance, Rajnish says. “We reached Patna at 5 am,” he adds, by which time the oxygen in the ambulance was nearly exhausted and Rinku was gasping for breath. Rinku’s son Prashant had also joined them.

Rakesh, who was already in Patna, said even getting past the AIIMS gates proved a nightmare. “There was a delay in completing admission formalities. Eventually, I called up AIIMS Director Dr P K Singh.”

Rinku spent the next 18 days on ventilator support, with doctors at times leaving her fate up to god. Dr Mukesh Kumar at AIIMS, Patna, said Rinku’s condition also deteriorated “because of hyperthyroidism besides lung infection and high eosinophilia (a large number of white blood cells, indicating infection)”. After she came off the ventilator, Rinku developed diarrhoea.

The brothers rented a room near AIIMS and bore the expenses for Rinku’s treatment, even as Satish still kept away.

Finally, after 40 days at AIIMS, Rinku started breathing on her own, and on May 28 she was discharged. The brothers took her to their home in Ramchua of Banka.

Still unable to walk, and needing long physiotherapy, the 47-year-old told The Indian Express, “I owe my life to my two brothers.”

Satish wishes he hadn’t let fear of Covid overcome the need to be by Rinku’s side. “I know I am at fault. But I was scared for my safety. I know Rinku has survived because of her brothers,” he says.

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