He requested the traffic constable duty once more. They had remained stuck up already for more than two hours by now at the three-point crossing leading to the main thoroughfare that would give them access to the Medical College which was hardly one and half K.M away from the spot they had been stopped from proceeding any further.
Manish wondered when at all he could rush his four and half year old daughter to the emergency desk of the hospital, let alone get her actually admitted to be able to avail of all necessary life saving medical attention and support she badly needed. She was so sick that each moment was equivalent to several years of her total life span if she was at all destined to live a fairly long life like others.
And Manish was not sure what the Almighty had ordained for her. In the back seat of the car her condition was getting bad to worse steadily which could be very well discerned even by a laymen like Manish.
He had once earlier stepped out from the car to assess how badly the road navigability had been hit ahead and what time might it take to clear and give them the opportunity to be at the front of the row before turning right for the five-point junction which was only just at a stone’s throw distance from the hospital.
What Manish saw was simply awful. Cars, buses, minibuses and even large body trucks had literally rammed into each other on the left lane and the two wheelers and three wheelers like auto rickshaws, matador vans and the small goods carriers had huddled together round them in kind of a satellite ring. There was, however, a narrow channel kept open on the right for the down stream traffic to pass by restricted entry at long intervals.
All the vehicles had cut off their engines, patiently waiting with stoical indifference as if choosing it better to resign to their fate. Manish by a conservative estimate calculated that he would need a minimum of twenty to twenty five minutes to reach the junction point ahead even though they were cleared to move right now. He had not added, however, the further quota of horrible moments he would be required to still spare on the main arterial road, which was now kept out of their access for more than two hours. If that too was equally jam packed like where they were now stranded, which was most likely as Manish apprehended, his daughter had hardly any chance for life. And his cute, lovely little daughter, fortunately unconscious with unusually high body temperature was bleeding profusely through her nose and her mouth. The abscesses on her chins and
some close to her eyes looking like harmless summer boils were also bleeding incessantly.
The haemorrhage in this formidable magnitude had started three days back. Earlier it was actually intermittent bleeding when she would wake up in the morning and brush her teeth or she would come back from school or after a short stint of play outdoor with her friends. Initially Manish and her wife won’t be much concerned thinking the nose bleeding to be an usual feat of harmless morbidity common among quite a few children of her age, particularly during summer. Similarly, they had ignored the bleeding in the oral cavity as being caused by weak gums. Not that they were not caring parents but no body around them was that much knowledgeable as to caution them about serious indications and life threatening consequences which they were now mercilessly aware of.
First there were home remedies, patiently tried one after another received gratis from all well wishers and self taught experts in magic cures in the known and semi-known circle. Some of the tricks looked like working marginally and most others grossly failed. It was then some other systems of medicines which either failed for absence of proper diagnosis by the practitioners in their respective fields or lack of patience on their part. But it was only three days back that they happened to be closest to the crushing truth which turned the life for them both as in complete ruins in a couple of days.
Mitul woke up that morning with high fever and was almost unconscious by the noon. Her nose started bleeding continuously and blood started oozing out through her teeth in voluntary motion draining out in bouts of regular intervals through the corners of her lips. Some innocent looking pimple shaped eruptions got ruptured on their own, ejecting fresh blood.
Manish took Mitul to the Nursing Home in the vicinity, which was frequented by the locals for common ailments usually, for low budget treatments. First they suspected her to be a haemophilic, tested her blood for haemophilia and being convinced that there was nothing wrong with her blood components except extremely low RBC, haemoglobin, platelets etc., the Nursing Home authority became anxious only to release Mitual in a nervous hurry without bothering to arrange for her the minimum life supports like oxygen mask or saline drip knowing fully well that her entire system was failing and she had obvious difficulty in breathing.
The RMO would have released her that day itself but fearing public wrath allowed her to remain admitted in utter unwillingness until today’s morning when they called up Manish at the crack of the dawn and when he reported at the Nursing Home they just handed over the release order which was presumably kept ready from the previous night.
Manish had no option. He was not given any proper advice as to what he should do now and whom should he now approach. Only after persistent request by him and his wife a young person, probably attached to the Nursing Home as a specialist doctor, in a bid of casual advice divulged that their daughter’s might have been a case of moderately advanced leukaemia and advised that they would better take her to a Government hospital first, for confirmation and initial medical attention. He also named a well known Medical College and Hospital in the north of the City where they could avail the expert opinion and advice of a renowned haematologist who was on the faculty there. The Nursing Home R.M.O, however, refused to mention anything specific in Mitul’s release order except ‘admitted with nose bleeding and released with advice for sustained treatment under expert care not available in the Nursing Home’.
They refused to provide any of their ambulances, let alone I.V drips, oxygen support and a doctor or at least a qualified Nurse which Mitul badly needed during her journey to the hospital which was a long way off from their southern part of the city suburb. Their excuse had irrefutable reasons. The President had arrived the previous night at the city and his whole day programme would commence at the South early in the morning continuing upto late evening in the deep North before he would depart for Delhi at 9-30 P.M covering altogether ten programs in a row.
Had Manish been within his normal daily schedule of activities he would have known all these from the newspaper which had become quite an alien item now in his life for the last few days. So what he could afford to faintly react for, was only a remote kind of surprise at the zeal and dynamism of a man at the top of the VVIP ladder of the country.
The RMO and the owner of the Nursing Home who happened to be present there at the moment, expressed their consequential inability, not quite politely though, to spare an ambulance which had ample chance of getting stranded on a narrow by-road, as traffic had been restricted (actually prohibited) on all main routes. They could not surely do injustice to other critical patients who would also ask for ambulance services from them in matters of emergency!
How, Manish, a nobody among the multitude of millions, could differ? So he got back home with his wife and little frail daughter, who was now hardly sensing anything, in a rickshaw, took a hurried shower and collecting as little money as was left with him, settled with a taxi after several sessions of persuasions and haggling and virtual surrendering at the feet of the taxi-driver.
“ How can I allow you to take the wrong passage and proceed? What do you think? Don’t I have the fear of losing my job?
If I let you go, the Sergeant at the head of the road will not spare me thinking that I have done this on gratification.
Look! The VVIP is coming and this is a ‘Z’ +++ category event for us…errr..rr..r ….I am not sure whether only three pluses would suffice or how many more pluses ought to be there. I am really not sure and you should not take it as from the record.
I must be cautious and should not risk anything” -the constable wanted to be quite candid and certain with a hint of finality.
“ Please! Try to understand!”
Manish pleaded with the policeman in a frantic appeal.
“ My little daughter is probably suffering from leukaemia. She is profusely bleeding from her nose and can only be saved if she gets immediate blood transfusion”.
“What mia?”-the custodian of law appeared to be a little concerned and it seemed that he had never heard of the fearsome ailment.
“ Why, you people choose to be so novice. Most doctors are upstarts and know nothing. People rarely die of nose bleeding. Go, get some ice and put on her nose. That will promptly stop the bleeding”. – the policeman sounded to be quite knowledgeable pronouncing a final verdict and walked away after blaming him for not travelling in an ambulance in which case he might take up with the Sergeant.
Manish felt that there was no point in wasting his extremely limited quota of precious moments which were trickling down in hopeless succession as the final seconds of a time bomb seen often in movies. He ran for the traffic Sergeant at the junction ahead.
He was surprised to see that the main road was absolutely vacant except a few stray foot-passengers. Not a single vehicle, not even the hand-drawn rickshaws could be seen anywhere and it looked like a curfew had been clamped after a major riot in the area.
The Traffic Sergeant told that they had not allowed any vehicular traffic on that road during the last three hours. For the last three legs of his whole day program the VVIP was to pass through the road with his motorcade and thirty- member envoy. He had just passed through the point and was approaching the Kali temple wherefrom he would go to the Institute to preside over the passing out ceremony there. His last program would be at the H.Q of the adjacent district town. Until they heard on their wireless set that the VVIP had left for the airport after the function there, they could not take the risk of opening the road for vehicles.
The next few minutes flew like thunder flashes for Manish.
He got back to his car in a pace matching the last leg sprinting by a long distance runner. Just telling the driver and his wife to follow after the road would be accessible, he started to run with his unconscious daughter on his back. Had the temperature of her body fallen appreciably? Had her nose stopped bleeding? He had no time or mental poise left to be necessarily concerned.
He started to run for the emergency ward of the Hospital, the last ray of his hope, only feeling the flaccid body of his daughter bumping against his back and her cold, limp hands touching him deep inside his heart in a ruthless cry for warmth of life which was steadily fleeting past for all three of them.
The emergency desk looked deserted too. Only one young chap with the arms of his stethoscope wrapped around his neck was reclining in his chair with his eyes closed. He obviously did not like being dragged out of his slumber. Uncalled for he explained that he was just a trainee doctor and that too he was manning the desk overtime after a full night shift and usual hospital duty all through day. He furthered his information by telling that all senior serving doctors and senior faculties had been detailed for emergency medical duty for the VVIP at different locations in and around the city. He advised Manish quite gratis to take his patient to somewhere else if he wanted her to live.
All feelings, sensation and awareness had left Manish as if in a blissful vacuum within his mind and he slowly laid Mitul on the table before the doctor without saying a word. Looking into his vacant eyes the doctor stood up and put his stethoscope on Mitul’s chest. He needed not many moments further and softly closed the eyes of the child.
There was silence, smothering silence all around.
Manish took his daughter’s body on his shoulders once more. It felt like a huge blackhole closing in on him from all directions and nothing was moving inside his body and soul. But was it a sense of relief,- relief from no further tortured moments of worries and agonies? He started to walk towards the exit door. Suddenly the prevailing silence broke with the voice of the newscaster. The doctor had switched on the TV. Looking back in a sort of reflex action before leaving the room, Manish saw the attractive face of a young lady on the TV screen announcing,
“ The President, as the last program of the day’s schedule, had just ceremonially opened the nuclear medicine department of the Cancer Research Institute and had left for the airport”.
The smiling face of the VVIP leaning forward to an octogenarian cancer patient on a hospital bed and talking to him in comforting gesture zoomed large on the screen.