Thursday, April 28, 2022

I will not forget

Today completes one year of that fateful day when my father passed away. He would have been 80 years few months later.

The problem is not that my father passed away but the events leading up to that and the complete collapse of everything at that time.

My father was based in Bhopal, last thirty odd years of his life he lived there. I am based in South India. That month of 2021 was hell in the country. So, I was not present when all this happened.

21st April was Ram Navami, I called him that day and he was coughing. I requested him to get a COVID test done. As if he knew, he said to wait for Ram Navami and then he will get that done. 

21-April by end of the day his oxygen levels were in 70s. We started looking for a hospital. There was a derelict hospital near our home which was converted to a COVID care center that same day. Fortunately, they had a bed empty, so we got him admitted.

Doctors treated him at this COVID care center till 27-April. He was fine, but the oxygen was not in control. On 27th the doctor told us, "We are doing everything we can, but if you can find a better hospital, you can shift him there". 

We took it as a signal that the doctor at COVID care has done everything he could, and this was his nudge to us to shift him somewhere.

As we looked around for a bed in hospital, everybody knowledgeable told me, all the beds in good private hospitals are reserved for politicians. We asked couple of other doctors whom we knew, and they said that they could not take any more patients because all night they were running around to arrange for oxygen cylinders. The oxygen that they had gotten is barely sufficient for existing patients so they would not suggest we take our father there. The oxygen can run out any time and then it would become exceedingly difficult.

Finally, we found a bed in Hamidia Hospital, which is the primary government hospital in Bhopal. We were told to show up in next hour otherwise bed would go to somebody else.

My father at 2pm

From afternoon of 21-April 2021 till 28-April 2pm, none of our conversations with doctors would suggest anything was wrong. Even when we point out to them that oxygen levels were below normal, they would say, this happens and the feeling that we got that they were in control.

In the night of 28-April, around 10:00pm we received a call and were told that my father must be moved to an invasive ventilator, in the next half an hour we received another call that he had passed away.

During these times, everybody who was supposed to be representing an authority was absent. We would not hear anything from hospitals. COVID wards were like jails, you go inside and then you don't hear anything back. If you are lucky, you get cured and walk out or like my father, you die and you get a courtesy call, and the body is directly transferred to cremation ground.

There were many people doing excellent work. Most of these were without any authority. Some good Samaritans who were going out of their way to help fellow citizens. That makes we wonder, if people with no authority could do so much, if authority were doing its job, how the situation could have been salvaged.

So, yes, I blame anybody in a position of authority who could have helped this situation from getting worse for the mess during second wave of COVID. I still believe, this was a loss that was avoidable. We did not need extraordinary work from anybody. If only people just did their job. we would be in a better place.

Over the last year, I have tried to diagnose the reasons why authorities behaved the way they did. Every time I have come to same conclusion. A significant percentage of us citizens are so invested in making the government look good, we have stopped asking them the questions. We have started confusing governments for nations. That's why today, I don't see much hope going forward.