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Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 18 : 25

Of shrapnel & splinter & blast victims


Sneaking into a hospital ward after a bomb blast in your city, isn't the most popular thing to do. But not, if you are a journalist.

5 days after the Delhi High Court blast, after my colleagues were done reporting live from the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in the Capital, on the deaths and injuries and so on, I sneaked in. It is an advantage, at times, to step in so late into the scene. The hospital security doesn't recognize you as one of the 'Press-walahs' and so,you don't get thrown out, not immediately.

So I went in, and this is the story.

I didn't have to work too hard finding my way to the blast victims' ward 1. 10 of them, at least, in this ward. You are not really sure how to approach them. But you do. You tell them you are from the media, and that you are trying to help them, and just want to know if they are facing any problems at the hospital. You find them good to talk.

Standing in the same line or around, outside Gate no.5 of the Delhi High court on the 7th of Sept, most of the victims suffered from painful shrapnel and splinter injuries in their legs and chest.

55-year-old Ashok Kumar has a nail embedded in his thigh. His son Rakesh says doctors at RML are saying they can't remove it, and have returned him from the operation table. "Doctors ne kaha log to goli ke saath ji jaate hain, tere baap ko to sirf chharre lage hain, uske vahin rehne de."

Risk of Infection? "Keh nahi sakte, doctors keh rahe hain ke ho bhi sakta hai, nahi bhi" - chipped in Rakesh's mother.

Admitted in the same ward, is 38-year-old Sanjeev. According to his brother, despite severe injury, doctors discharged him the same day.

"Hamse kaha ke jinki jaan khatre mein hain, unhe hi pehle dekhenge..aap ghar chele jao - ham ghar gaye aur bleeding band hi nahi hui ..agle din vaapis hospital aana pada." His brother Rajeev told me, looking gravely concerned.

Shankar Lal, 44, a peon working for a private. firm also alleges that he was asked to leave the hospital on the same day he was admitted. But he refused, as it turns out, he also needed further treatment for his wounds on the right leg. He has also lost his sense of hearing, from his right ear.

25-year-old Raj Pandey works as an advocate clerk in the Delhi HC. While employees have a gate pass but on that fateful day, he had come to help a client get a pass made. He now has a deep wound on his right thigh and his face is bruised all over. But he doesn't have any major complaints against the hospital staff.

Rajesh Kohli, 50, cant help smiling at the irony, when he tells me that his case was due for hearing some 2 months ago. For some logistical reasons, it had to be postponed and the date he was given was - 7of September. He looked at me as if to say, never did I think for a moment that.

I made my way to another ward in another building in the RML hospital,where more seriously injured blast victims were admitted on all 5 floors. Head and neck injuries, multiple surgeries, amputations. The most cruel blow, was for the families of those who had to undergo amputation of their limbs.

50-year-old Ratan Lal is perhaps one of the most grievously injured blast victims. Doctors had to amputate both his legs in order to save his life. In fact he was undergoing another surgery as I finally managed to find out his whereabouts. His family was clearly stricken. It took me almost an hour to trace them and when I did find them, the lady just said, "Please, he's in the OT, we don't want to talk." I could see that even if she wanted to, she couldn't have.

I moved on from the scene.

While the whole media has been talking about Ratan Lal's case, there's another story, I found, by the same name. I had bumped into this burly man in a ward, while I was asking around for anyone by the name Ratan. They pointed me towards this safari suit clad middle aged man. I was confused, clearly he wasn't hurt. He wasn't the Ratan I was looking for. A doctor was trying to get some details from him and I heard him say, "for god's sake, just how many times? bata to do kis liye pooch rahe ho". I looked beside him, a young, bruised but still handsome looking, man lying on the bed. Conscious and in pain. I couldn't see his wounds because he was covered with a blanket. But I could see that he was by far, a far worse case. I looked at his case sheet placed at the foot of the bed. Nitin, M, 35, it said. Meanwhile, Ratan, the father, started reading a newspaper sitting on a stool beside him. That was odd. He didn't want to talk to me. All other families were very responsive. I caught Nitin's eye. Aap theek ho jayenge, I told him. After 3 seconds, he made an effort to understand. I told him again - himmat nahi haarna. Aap theek ho jayenge. Nitin nodded slightly and just like that, slipped into incoherence again. I slipped out of the ward.

Later, I learnt from another reporter on the field that Nitin had a 1000 chharre or pellets embedded in his body. Indeed and by far, the most painful injury. I understood why Ratan didn't want to talk to me.

There were various other families, some inside the wards sitting near their loved ones, watching them suffer. Some outside the wards, standing or sitting on the stairs, waiting anxiously for a word from the doctor. Some were just holding each others hands, staring helplessly, at nowhere.

I finally approached the National Disaster Management Authority desk, set up at the hospital. For the final figures. Out of 56 admissions, 23 blast victims were still admitted. 3 of them were still critical and 4 victims have died during treatment. On an unofficial note, they told me, there are at least 3 other victims who are facing amputation of their limbs.

I was ready to get back to work and file my story. But for families of the blast victims, I knew there was no turning back from the shock, pain and the suppressed rage at the unfairness of it all. Their wounds went way deeper. I knew.


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More about Shalini

Was the kid lost in science books at school, practically lived in the science labs at high school but that love affair diverted to mass media studies during graduation. When you have a combination like that, there plops a health journalist. And after 6 years of work now, she still feels she hasn't talked enough about YOUR health - all that you want to know & need to know on pandemics, major public health concerns (tobacco products must be banned!), new miracle medicines & treatments on the horizon to drugs that should banned here & now…And more importantly, about the people behind these stories. The real reasons, real inspirations. Constantly complains that not everything can be said in a minute & a half. Hence this blog – takes you behind the scenes, beyond the bytes. She loves to cook a good story but once off the screen, can’t cook a thing in the kitchen to save her life. Finds it equally impossible to keep a cupboard/desktop tidy. Is a known bookworm, blog-worm (if that’s a word) & a chai freak!