On Tuesday morning, when KEM hospital’s matron Arundhati Vellal passed by the room occupied by Aruna Shanbaug, 67, for the past 42 years, she could not stop herself from going inside.
“I expected to see her lying on the bed. Then I remembered that she is gone,” said Vellal, who has been with the hospital since 1981.
Shanbaug breathed her last on Monday morning.
The nurses paid their last respects by lighting a candle in front of Shanbaug’s photo kept on the bed.
The authorities now plan to open the room to other patients, although not immediately. The modest room with yellow walls will be refurbished. “We plan to put a board stating that Shanbaug lived here. Even she would have liked the room to be used for patients, as there is a shortage of beds in the hospital,” said Dr Avinash Supe, dean, adding that her personal items such as a radio and clothes will be relocated safely.
Shanbaug’s room was opened to outsiders for the first time on Tuesday.
While Shanbaug’s state had triggered a national debate, the nursing staff’s dedication to her was unfailing. They would buy her soaps, night gowns and other items of necessity from the funds collected by the nursing association at the hospital.
Despite a shortage, the hospital made sure that a nurse was always available to care for Shanbaug.
Ideally, one nurse looks after six patients, but at KEM one nurse is in-charge of at least 80 people. “Despite such workload, the nurses made sure she never had a bedsore,” said Vellal, admitting that during her admission to the medical ICU, Shanbaug had developed bedsores because her skin was degenerating.
On Monday, the nursing staff bought a red sari, a pair of earrings and bindi for her. “We wanted to dress her for the last time,” said Vellal.
The hospital nurses have now mooted the idea to name the one-stop crisis centre meant for rape survivors after Shanbaug.
Though her family was present for the funeral, the hospital nurses have collected her ashes.