The death toll, 30 children in just 48 hours and more than 60 five days later, might have been a lot higher if not for the efforts and humanity of one man.
In a horrific event, 30 children admitted at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur, reportedly suffocated to death in just 48 hours. These children were suffering from encephalitis, a fatal disease that is endemic to Gorakhpur and visits every year during monsoon, taking thousands of lives with it. But these children did not succumb to the disease. They died because their oxygen supply was cut off by the supplier of oxygen cylinders to the hospital, as his dues amounting to ₹68,58,596 had not been cleared.
While the hospital administration and UP government are trying their best to pass the buck around, we wish bring to everyone’s notice the one man, Dr. Kafeel Ahmed, who managed to save several lives with his presence of mind and humanity.
He was the paediatrician in charge of the encephalitis ward when the tragedy struck, and instead of standing around wringing his hands, he immediately sprung into action.
He called up all the suppliers of oxygen cylinders in the district that he could find and tried to arrange for the life-saving gas quickly. However, he was refused by everyone except one, and only on the condition that the payment for the cylinders was made in full before delivery. He did not hesitate for a minute but took out his ATM card and asked one of his staff members to get the cash from his bank account at the earliest.
While he waited for these cylinders to arrive, he saw that the situation in the ward was deteriorating. So he made some more calls and found a friend who owned a private hospital and had three big oxygen cylinders he could spare. Dr. Kafeel rushed to his car and drove down to this hospital to haul these cylinders to BRD. Before leaving, he trained the hospital staff to administer artificial respiration to patients using Ambu bags.
Meanwhile, the agency that had agreed to provide the cylinders backed out, and Dr Kafeel was left with the task of single-handedly trying to procure oxygen for all the children in the ward. He made frantic calls to many other nursing homes and suppliers, and finally found one supplier who kept his promise to deliver. Dr Kafeel personally managed to bring in 12 more oxygen cylinders from other nursing homes by making four more trips in his car, and saved many lives which would have added to the death toll if not for him.
In spite of all his efforts, Dr Kafeel had to witness the tragic death of more than 60 children in front of his eyes. “What’s the use of all the money and our education when we can’t save lives. Money has no meaning if we cannot save a life. I saw so many kids die in front of me and I couldn’t do anything to save them,” he told News18.com