With the deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic spreading rapidly across the country, several states have been facing a crippling shortage of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, plasma and other medication required to treat Covid-19. And an Uttar Pradesh-based comedian Prashasti Singh’s Instagram posts are shedding light on the heartbreaking struggles of those infected by the virus and their families.
Singh’s mother tested positive for coronavirus over the last weekend and had to be shifted to a hospital due to receding levels of oxygen in her body. In her Instagram posts, Singh outlines the ordeal she faced right from the moment she landed in Lucknow to help her ailing mother.
First, her Uber driver told her that he had been getting requests to transport dead bodies in his cab due to a scarcity of hearses. Singh’s mother was admitted to the hospital last Wednesday after a doctor who had been a friend of her father’s told her that the situation could become dire in a few days if they could not arrange for more oxygen. Due to a shortage of hospital beds across Lucknow, Singh had to “pull all strings” before she could finally manage to find space for her mother. But the ordeal did not end there.
After getting her mother admitted, Singh said she spent the nest 12 hours “running around to find one oxygen cylinder”. The next 12 hours were spent “call(ing) everyone in the management and scream(ing)”. It was only after someone told her that she needed to give small bribes to the ward boys to get things done and when a hand to a an oxygen cylinder for dear life when it came. “Didi phone milane se kya hoga, ward boys ko Rs 50-100 dijie aur jab oxygen cylinder aye, betal ki tarah latak jaiye” (Didi, no point in making calls. Give Rs 50-100 to the ward boys and when an oxygen cylinder comes, hang on to it like Betal).
Singh followed the advice and over the next 18 hours she made friends with the ward boys and other hospital staff. Not all of them accepted bribes. “They are good people, just stretched way beyond capacity,” she said. By Friday night, however, the shortage becomes severe. Singh said that the next few hours were spent running around, screaming and pleading. When the cylinders finally arrive by Saturday morning, there is a mad rush by patients grabbing cylinders to save their loved ones. Singh tried to grab one for her mother but was unable to pull it away due to its weight. She wondered how those weaker or older than her could manage to whisk away the cylinders.
When the next lot arrives, one of her “bribe friends” helped her grab a cylinder for her mother. Singh said that this week, her mother has been recovering. But the toll that the experience took on Singh is testimony to the unprecedented crisis unfolding across hospitals in India. “Everyday, I remind myself that I can’t complain. Hospital beds are a luxury. Think about what’s happening to others. And then I start thinking about others. And then I have to stop,” Singh wrote. She added that in the last three days, she had seen seven dead bodies.
The COVID-19 death toll in Uttar Pradesh rose by 162, to cross the 10,000-mark on Tuesday while 29,754 fresh cases pushed the tally of infections in the state to over nine lakh, according to a senior official. The death toll in the state is now 10,159 while total number of cases are 9,09,405.