Updated: April 24, 2021 9:16:48 am
One moment they were strangers, none of whom knew of the existence of the others. The next moment they were united in the most intimate way, connected by tubes to the same well of life from which they drew.
Parvati Devi, Om Dutt Sharma, and Deepak lay outside GTB Hospital on Friday afternoon, sharing a single cylinder of oxygen, as the Capital fought a shortage that has increased manifold the risk to serious patients of Covid-19 and driven hospitals to send daily, repeated pleas to the government for help.
Shi found stretchers, 65-year-old Om Dutt lay on a sheet spread on the ground.
There were no stretchers available, Om Dutt’s family said — and they did not want to lose that vacant spot on the ground to another patient.
On Thursday night, Om Dutt’s 40-year-old son, Chaman Lal Sharma, had died outside the same hospital, waiting for a bed near the emergency block. He had found a stretcher, though.
On Friday, members of the three families stood around their patients, periodically adjusting the connecting pipes and oxygen masks, as they waited to be admitted to the hospital’s Covid block.
Doctors and hospital attendants did what they could – checking on them every hour with an oximeter.
Parvati’s son Ram Kumar (45), said his mother has had a cough and fever for the last two days. He had started out with his mother and elder brother from their home in Mandawali in East Delhi at 3 am on Friday to look for a bed in a hospital, Ram said.
“We went to Shanti Mukand and Max but couldn’t find a bed. Around 5 am, we reached Dr Hedgewar Hospital, where our mother was tested for Covid. Her report came positive, but they said they did not have an oxygen bed to give her. She was complaining of severe chest pain.
“We came to GTB at 11 am. They gave us this cylinder and a stretcher outside. The other two families are also suffering; how can we complain?”
Om Dutt’s son Chaman Lal had complained of breathlessness on Thursday morning. Chaman Lal had a fever, and his son Mohan had brought him to GTB from the family’s home in Ghaziabad’s Gagan Vihar.
With tears in his eyes, 18-year-old Mohan recalled the night his father had died: “There were no beds here (at GTB) and the guards told us to leave. We went to Dr Hedgewar Hospital, but they refused to take him in. My father was sinking, there was blood coming from his mouth. Around 11 pm, we came back to GTB. He was lying on a stretcher and we arranged an oxygen cylinder for him. But he died after half an hour.”
Less than 24 hours later, Mohan was back at GTB, begging doctors for a bed for his grandfather, whose condition had deteriorated sharply after Chaman’s death.
“We borrowed a friend’s vehicle and went to Commonwealth Games Village first, but they did not take us in because we had not come in an ambulance,” Mohan said. The family then went to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Shanti Mukand, and Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital, where there were beds, but no oxygen. The family was asked to organise their own cylinder.
The family finally returned to GTB. “We did not want to come back here, but we had no choice,” Mohan said.
The third person breathing from the cylinder, Deepak, is a shopkeeper who came to the hospital with his wife Rekha around noon on Friday, leaving their two children, aged 10 and 7, at home.
“He had a fever on Thursday but took a paracetamol and was fine,” Rekha said. “This morning, he said he was short of breath. We rushed to Swami Dayanand Hospital but they said he could not be treated there. We took an auto and went to Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital and Commonwealth Games Village, but were told at both places that no oxygen beds were available.”
A friend of the couple had ultimately brought them to GTB. “We now have an oxygen cylinder. It’s hot and Deepak is having chest pain. We just want to get a bed; is it that difficult?” Rekha asked.
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