Aruna Shanbaug, 66, was on Friday shifted to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) at the KEM Hospital, Parel after she developed pneumonia. Doctors said she is breathing with the help of oxygen support, but her condition is stable and improving.
Shanbaug, a former nurse of the hospital, has been admitted there in a vegetative state for the last 40 years, after she was sexually assaulted by a hospital sweeper in 1973.
“She is responding to the treatment. She had contracted pneumonia but is better now,” said mayor Sunil Prabhu, who visited Shanbaug on Sunday.
Dr Shubhangi Parkar, acting dean, KEM Hospital, Parel, said Shanbaug’s pneumonia was detected when a doctor had visited her ward for a check-up, “She had pneumonia and had a lot of trouble breathing when we shifted.
Aruna Shanbaug. her to the MICU. She is responding well and her condition is stable. We know she can’t complain and hence are even more alert to any change in behaviour or health.”
However doctors will decide to shift her from the MICU only when she does not require any oxygen support.
“She is a fighter. All this while, she had small medical issues but she always overcomes it. In the last two years, this is the first time we had to shift her to MICU,” said Dr Parker.
Shanbaug’s only relative in the city, Shanta Nayak, 77, died in September this year.
Hospital nurses said Nayak, Shanbaug’s older sister, had not visited her for the past many years.
“She [Nayak] herself was very ill. Now, her daughter Mangala is staying alone here,” said a neighbour, recalling how a young Aruna would wear her uniform to work when she stayed with her sister at a Worli chawl.
Shanbaug, came to Mumbai from Haldipur, Karnataka, after she landed a job as a nurse at KEM Hospital. She stayed with her sister for at least a month.
For all these years, Shanbaug has been confined to a small side room attached to ward number four of the hospital.
To avoid infection, only one nurse is allowed to tend to Shanbaug, who is fed every two hours through a tube.
In March 2011, the Supreme Court had rejected a petition filed by author Pinki Virani seeking mercy killing for Shanbaug, which the hospital’s management and nursing staff had opposed.