Since a week, nurses at the civic run KEM hospital have been preparing flowers out of wastepaper used to wrap X-ray films to gift Aruna Shanbaug on her 64th birthday on Friday.
Shanbaug, a former nurse of the hospital, has been admitted there in a vegetative state for the last 37 years, after she was sexually assaulted by a hospital sweeper in November 1973.
Last March, 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.
Apart from flowers, nurses are preparing a big greeting card, on which visitors can write their wishes for Shanbaug. It will be stuck outside Shanbaug’s room in ward number 4 of the hospital. According to KEM authorities, Shanbaug’s relatives do not visit her. “This birthday is a reminder for everyone who thought that euthanasia was an answer to her sufferings. Her condition is stable. We give her tetra pack juices twice a month through the ryles tube. She smiles at us, which is a sign of life,” said a senior nurse from the hospital.
To avoid infection, only one nurse is allowed to tend to Shanbaug, who is fed every two hours through a tube. “Only a few nurses are allowed to enter the room and celebrate her birthday. She gets agitated when she sees a crowd, so we have planned to put the card outside for everyone to write their wishes for her,” said a senior nurse who has attended to Shanbaug.
Dr Sanjay Oak, dean of KEM hospital, said, “Aruna is not a liability to us, I am her only legal guardian and we will tend to her till the end. Her condition has not improved, but it has not deteriorated either, which is a good sign in such cases. In fact, her condition is better than last year, when she had started developing fever.”