Sunday, July 09, 2006

Trauma. destiny and senselessness

7:30 pm and we leave our office 40km out of Bangalore city. Me and a colleague who hitched a ride in my car – on our way back home into the city. Its just getting dark, but not quite. The world cup matches are on, but I think there is none today - the July 3rd. I have been traveling all the month gone and I am eager to reach home and sack out.

15 minutes down the road and the road is kind of blocked and crowded. I slow down the car and my colleague insists we stop. So, I park the car to the edge of the road. It’s a high rise road and I put my car just a few inches away from the fall.

There is a host of villagers crowded around a lorry and as we go closer we see it’s an accident scene. Even closer and we see the Tata Indica car pushed down the side, its front completely smashed. And soon, we see 7 men & women laying on the ground some lying, some sitting - all drenched in blood.

The crowd is merely watching them. The villagers have helped the injured out of the car, but now no one knows what to do. I am not sure what we should do and then my colleague calls for an ambulance from our factory.

5 minutes flat and the ambulance arrives. Just as that happens, the otherwise quiet victims start wailing and murmuring. The trauma has begun.

One old lady is wailing and shouting non-stop. One young man is lying flat on the ground. One old man is all blood on his body. Another old man has a huge gash where his eye should be. Two younger guys seem relatively ok, but still full of blood and fine glass. One old lady is peacefully sleeping it seems to me. She has an injury on her head but very intact otherwise. They are all from a single family except for the driver who is lying down.

The ambulance can take in only 2 people lying down and two sitting. But we have 7. We try asking some cars passing by to stop, but suddenly everyone is going somewhere else but the direction of the hospital. I do not feel angry at them. This is India. There are the police, the doctors, the common man, the rich man and innocent victims. To be good is not easy- the system does not let you. Neither for me.

So, we literally stuff 6 of the victims into the ambulance and 1 into my car. The ambulance is much faster than my car and I suddenly cannot find the hospital. My nose is drenched with the smell of blood and I am getting dizzy. The last time I went to a blood bank I almost lost it. And now, I am busy trying to keep the steering. We finally find the town General Hospital. Quiet place. No big lights. As we enter there is only one doctor, 2 nurses and a compounder. The building is big and I wonder where the rest of the staff.

As we take the injured guy from my car in, now spitting blood non-stop, I see that off the other 6 victims - 3 are laying flat motion less. The doctor seemed rather unsure. "Take them to Nimhans (the head injury hospital)" he says. And my heart takes a fall. That is more than an hour away!!'

I am sorry but 4 of them have head injuries and I cannot help them'.

Now, my friend is running up and down from victim to victim, as if he is the doctor. And I ask the doctor, “But do you not have to administer some medicines and treatment?" They are going to travel a long way?

The nurse and the doctor begin injecting the victims and treat some of the wounds. And then kind of tells us to carry on. We have to remind him there is another victim in the other room and then he rushes with us and administers some treatment and drip. And then again he stops and looks at us. I look at the guy I carried in my car and I see that now he is dripping much more blood from his mouth.

“Should you not drip him? He is loosing blood!" And the doctor looks at the victim and me and then says 'Ok'.

I am quite amazed. Dripping is something I see on TV. The doctor should be more into it. No? I actually feel sorry for him. He must be seeing such incidents everyday and has no resource provided to him. Must be frustrating or what... ?

Suddenly one of the two young guys approaches me. He must be 15-16. And keeps calling me 'Anna, Anna'. Anna means brother. I look at him and I am not sure what to say. He says something and I think he said, 'Anna, it’s my fault.' I look back and say, 'No, it’s not your fault. Do not think like that'. He is really broken. I call my colleague to talk to him and he starts begging my colleague, “please save my brother". I do not know why he specifically says that, but then I see his brother dripping blood from his mouth, but he will survive it seems to me.

Now, we have a problem. Three of the victims are flat out on the ground and no way can we fit them all in the small ambulance.

“listen we need another ambulance I think. Our ambulance will not be enough. Please provide your hospital ambulance too." I tell the doctor.

“No. We do not have one ambulance. The one we have is under repair for a month." he mentions. “Any repair over Rs.500 needs to get approved and that takes time".

I cannot believe what he says. “Ok. Lets get a big taxi and one of your guys can accompany the injured. We will pay." I say.

"Sorry, we are very few and cannot leave".

"What about getting a policeman. He can accompany. No?"He answers nothing.

My colleague tells me, "let’s take them in your car"

I am worried. What if they collapse on the way? How do I explain the police? But I see my colleagues concern and I do not want to give up and say ok.

As we move the injured to my car, a police vehicle comes in and I immediately approach him. Listen there are 4 victims who need an ambulance! 3 have been sent already.Even before I can talk further. He replies, 'Ok. I send you one in 5 minutes. And vanishes"

We have no idea if he is going to actually send an ambulance or not. And I am started feeling bad and nauseated. The blood is getting one me and I need to smoke suddenly.

Now, the doctor, me and my colleague are watching each other. No one saying a thing. My colleague asks me, 'Should we not move in your car? The police is never going to come back"

I wonder. The ambulance will move at least twice as fast as me. But if it only comes.

And then we notice that the old lady lying flat is no longer breathing. The doctor confirms she has passed away. One person less to move.

And then the ambulance arrives. 10 minutes against the 5 promised. Good. The police man actually did his job and was not escaping from the scene.. good.

And we put everyone remaining in. And drive on.

Earlier, I had imagined that we will take the victims to the hospital and that would be it. But now, something has changed. We are almost like owners to the situation. And I and my colleague follow the ambulance to the 'Head injury' hospital inside the city.

It’s good the ambulance came. For it takes us almost 90 minutes to reach there. The ambulance reached much faster. As I drove my colleague kept calling the numbers on the mobile he found in the accident car. It so happens that these people are from his native place, so language is no problem.

As we reach the hospital, I am burdened in my head with the enormity of pain all around. We walk in to check on our group and see them all sprawled around. This hospital is equipped and systematic, even though haphazard.

‘There are 3 serious head injuries and one chest injury.' the doctor tells us. ‘The ones without a head injury must go to another hospital. The one with head injury stay here. The one with chest injury must leave for the chest hospital nearby.

Just as he says that I see the old man with a gash on his eye and head begins aggresively removing his bandages and then pulling out the drip. He is trying to escape a nightmare? The nurses rush to stop him from his decision. Its quite hard to see it happening and I try to see elsewehere.

'Suddenly, word is around that the driver, with a head injury, is in deep trouble. And I watch him gasping from breath even as he is on a respirator, drip and other stuff. He is dying I think. And I feel the saddest for him. Because he never opened his eyes since we found this group. I feel maybe if I touch him, it may help him. But people will wonder if I am crazy. So, I leave the person there.

This is the driver and not part of the family. And his parents come and begin talking to my colleague. “Sir, please tell me who is the doctor. I will pay me extra so he can save my son's life." My colleague says please, "the doctors are already attending him". Frankly, with so much happening around, its hard to decide if a little extra focus may or may not help. I am not a doctor. But he is a parent. Its awful.

I take up the job of moving the person with chest injury. And take him into an ambulance and follow it.

As we reach the hospital, the lady doctor begins to ask me his name and other details. And I say I do not know. She says, so who you are? I explain her what happened and she comments, “Oh! You are doing social work." And I do not know what to say to that.

She gets me to register the person before he can be treated. The guy on the registration computer types with one finger and is so very slow. It must have taken him 15 minutes before he finishes.

Finally, the old man with the chest injury is sent in. He is wailing non-stop and I suddenly realize that I am unable to feel his pain! And I am getting worried about myself.

As I walk out one Muslim lady lying on one of the hospital bed starts asking me about the accident. She does not stop showing her concern, just as everyone around me in the various beds is keenly listening to the story. All of them are hospitalized patients but they speak like they have never seen such disaster. They are so sensitive!!!

And I am real worried about myself. I am not feeling any pain or concern... just doing what has to be done!!!

My colleague arrives in the other ambulance with the 2 guys without head injuries. It seems the relatives have arrived. They are some 7 of them and I found its only one guy who is closely related. he is the son of the lady who died in the small town hospital.

We now shift them to another hospital. As I enter this hospital I notice it’s more crowded. People and families are huddled together in the reception. There is too much darkness and tragedy around. And there are two big TVs and you know what they are playing? WWWF wresting!!! I laugh at this dark humor. Of course, no one else but me notices this... there is too much pain around. But God, what’s happened to me. I am so numb. I cannot feel any pain!!!

The relatives of the family are all running around. My colleague does a good job as they have a common language. Two people have died. And he keeps reminding them 'there is God'. I wonder and am just quiet.

Things kind of just keep moving forward and a lot happens and its now around 2 in the early morning. Now, the entire tragedy has been transferred to the family and for a moment feels a little sad. The son keeps asking us how it all happened. If we know the number plate of the lorry. etc. Its hard to forget his face. He lost his mother and his father has most likely lost his eye.

We left.

Yesterday, my colleague called me. The old man with a chest injury has also passed away. So that's only 4 left out of the 7. All of them were driving to a pilgrimage. They had just bought a new car - just 2 days ago it seems. The young ones were taking there elders to the pilgrimage in Tirupathi. And then this happened.

I am real sorry for all this. God. Death. Pain. Trauma, love. relatives, doctors, ambulances, police, distances, parents, sons and daughters, strangers, passer-bys? I am just so numb.


Blogger JD said...

What a rivetting story, my friend. I felt I was with you at every moment.

When there are so many callous people around in times of dire need, I am happy for people like you.

12:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home