8 months on a stretcher under open skies: Nepalese patient at PGI, wife have nowhere to go
Since October 2017, this stretcher is “home” to the 46-year-old man from Nepal at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh as his wife sits and sleeps by his side on a mat while he gets treated at the hospital.Updated: Jun 03, 2018 12:37 IST
A few clothes, two blankets tightly wrapped in a blue poly-bag, two steel bowls, a plastic water bottle, slippers and a small bag with medical documents and medicines – these are all of Kamla Tharu and his wife Kansi’s possessions, neatly placed on the lower half of a stretcher on wheels parked under a mango tree at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).
Since October 2017, this stretcher is “home” to the 46-year-old man from Nepal as his wife sits and sleeps by his side on a mat while he gets treated at the hospital.
In January 2017, while on a trip to India from Nepal, the couple and their son were going to Uttarakhand when a bus accident left Kansi with head and back injuries and their son with a fracture of the left leg.
Both of Tharu’s legs were crushed.
“I was rushed to a private hospital in Dehradun, where they charged us Rs 7,000 just for a four-hour stay. I was then taken to a government hospital for surgery of the right leg. As the other leg was badly injured doctors said they could not do anything about it. I was really scared,” says Tharu, who is still unable to walk.
While his wife and son were treated in Dehradun and left for Nepal from there, Tharu was advised to move to PGIMER.
Taken to the advanced trauma centre first, and then the emergency, Tharu’s troubles got worse when his brother and brother-in-law, who had rushed in from Nepal to help him, went away because they “could not cope with the chaos and trouble.”
He spent seven harrowing days in the emergency, alone, starving, afraid to eat or drink because he did not have anyone to assist him with a bedpan or to take him to the toilet.
He was also petrified when the doctors went on their rounds, worrying that they would throw him out when they found out he didn’t have any money. Much to his relief, however, they did not.
“By that time, as Kansi recovered, she was asked to come to Chandigarh to take care of me and I was operated upon. In five days, the doctors discharged me and asked me to return after 10 days.”
However, instead of 10 days, Tharu could only come back after four months as he went back to Nepal. “I did not have money, an ambulance charges Rs 4,300 in Chandigarh and I had already taken a loan of Rs 50,000 for the treatment.”
His son today works as a labourer back home to repay the loan.
On his return, Tharu decided to stay put at PGIMER till the completion of his treatment, making the stretcher his home with Kansi by his side. They have no money to rent a room in the city or hire an ambulance.
About his routine, Tharu says, “I get up at 4am and my wife moves me to a wheelchair. We go towards Gate number 3, where at 8:30am, we get tea and rusk and then at 11am we are served langar (free food)”.
Then Tharu gets back to his spot to exercise for two-and-a-half hours. “My wife has to keep moving the stretcher as the shadow (of the mango tree) moves with the sun.” The heat has started to bother him. “These days it’s so hot that even the shade does not help,” he says. Evenings are better. “I enjoy the tea which I get at 4pm and then we sleep after we’re served food in the langar.
As Tharu, ends his story, a stretcher carrying a child is wheeled near him. “We have been asked to revisit the hospital after six days,” says the father, settling down for the night. He has no money to rent a place or hire an ambulance.