The death of 36 children for want of oxygen in Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, Gorakhpur has shaken the entire nation. But if not for Dr Kafeel Khan the number of casualities of this tragedy could have been far more.
In midst of catastrophe, head of the encephalitis ward and a paediatrician Dr Khan acted swiftly to minimise loss and according to parents in the hospital 'had it not been for Khan’s work, the number of deaths in the past 48 hours would be more than 36'.
Here's what happened:
The mortality rate of children in BRD Hospital has been quite high for quite a few days, but things went dangeroulsy south when on the night of August 10 the central oxygen pipeline in the college premises started beeping, indicating low supply of the gas.
The doctors and hospital staff turned to the cylinders for emergency oxygen supply, but they were enough for only two hours. They did not know what to do after that.
Understanding the vital importance of uninterrupted oxygen to critically ill children, Dr Khan immidiately started making calls to arrange more oxygen cylinders.
"A few called up the supplier, only to be told that they will send fresh supplies only after clearance of their dues. Refusal from other suppliers caused more panic in the hospital," A DNA report said.
But Dr Khan did not give up. he took matters in his own hands and drove to his friend’s private nursing home and borrowed three oxygen cylinders.
The doctor rushed back to BRD Hospital with cylinders, but the oxygen content in the cylinders was enough only to provide half an hour of supply in the central pipeline.
By now, it was 6 am and several critical children were developing convulsions for want of oxygen. Khan left the hospital again and made a round to other nursing homes known to him.
After trips to several nursing homes, he managed to collect as many as 12 oxygen cylinders. The child specialist made four trips to the hospital to ferry these cylinders for children admitted in his ward.
Menwhile, the junior doctors on duty were directed to keep pumping Ambu bags if the oxygen supply further reduced in the central pipeline.
When he returned to the hospital, he was informed that a local supplier was ready to supply oxygen cylinders on cash payment. Dr Khan gave his ATM debit card to one of his employees and withdrew Rs 10,000 to bring in more oxygen for patients. He also paid for diesel and other expenses to truck drivers who brought fresh supplies from Faizabad.
“While others doctors gave up hope, Dr Khan managed the situation well by arranging oxygen cylinders from private nursing homes. He saved many lives by his efforts and presence of mind,” said Gaurav Tripathi, an eyewitness.
Furthermore, the doctor forsaked any credit or publicity by speaking to media on the matter. The overnight drama and his acts of heroism were recorded and reported through accounts of parents of patients and other eyewitnesses in the ward.