Dr Chandrakant Patil died doing what he did best — helping others. A senior resident doctor at Mumbai’s King Edward Medical College (KEMC), he was killed in a freak lightning strike on a temporary bamboo structure functioning as his clinic in a relief camp in Bihar. He was just 24.
Patil was one of 48 doctors working for the national voluntary organization ‘Doctors for You’. Five of them, including him, were part of the Kataiya relief camp set up by filmmaker Prakash Jha in Supaul.
“It is a tragedy we lost such a promising young doctor. Patil was one of the first to sign up and had volunteered to stay
on for another fortnight after arriving here on September 18,” said Dr Ravi Kant Singh, his senior at KEMC. Singh, along with four other doctors, were to accompany Patil’s body back to Mumbai.
Government officials, doctors and RJD leader Rabri Devi were among those who paid homage to Patil before his coffin was flown to Mumbai. “The entire team of doctors is leaving for Mumbai tomorrow. I don’t think I will be able to motivate them to come back quickly to work in Bihar, especially because of the infrastructure problems that makes it impossible for us to function,” said Dr Singh.
When the doctors arrived from Mumbai, they were offered shelter in a cowshed before an NGO got them some space at the local Khadi Gram Udyog Ashram. “We were prepared to rough it out but the cowshed was a surprise. This kind of treatment makes you think twice before volunteering again,” said Singh.
But all those difficulties didn’t make too much of a difference to Patil. He knew things would be rough, but begged to come anyway. He was so keen to go to Bihar that he even fought with hospital authorities for permission. “We had been denied permission to go to Bihar but he was determined. He and another doctor pursued the dean to grant them leave and also brought other volunteers together,” said Dr Ankush Kolhe, spokesperson for the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors.
The students and staff of KEM Hospital are still in shock. A topper at Pune’s BJ Medical College, Patil was always more concerned about the welfare of others than his own. He voluntarily did the one-year rural stint most medical students find ways to escape.
“Patil worked as a medical officer in a remote village near Sakritaluka. He was always inclined towards social work,” said Narendra Patil, his friend and roommate at Anand Niketan hostel in Elphinstone College. Patil hoped to work for the WHO some day. He had organised an eye donation camp at KEM last month and was one of the first to pledge his eyes. That dream remained unfulfilled, as it was too late to harvest his eyes when his body reached Mumbai on Monday evening.