Sena chief's week-long struggle

Menaka Rao

Mumbai, Nov. 18 -- By November 10, Bal Thackeray had slipped into a coma. Over the next week, each of his organs - barring his heart - gave way. At 3.33pm on Saturday afternoon, as thousands across the city prayed for his recovery, the Sena chief passed away at Matoshree, his Bandra home. Dr Jalil Parkar, the family's primary physician, made the announcement to the large posse of Shiv Sena workers and media gathered outside Matoshree. "With great grief, we wish to inform you that Balasaheb Thackeray breathed his last at around 3:30pm following a cardio-respiratory arrest. We could not revive him."

After his condition worsened on Wednesday, three to four doctors from Lilavati hospital, Bandra, including Dr Parkar had been attending to Thackeray almost round-the-clock. Other doctors who were regularly tending to the Sena chief included intensivists Dr Prakash Jiandani and Dr Samad Ansari. Dr Ajit Menon, who was part of the team of doctors that performed an angioplasty on Thackeray in 2009, was also present at Matoshree on Saturday.

Thackeray's health had been on the decline since July, when he was hospitalised after he complained of a severe pain in his stomach. Dr Nageshwar Reddy, a Hyderabad-based interventional gastroenterologist, had at the time advised an endoscopy, but the family did not take the option after a preliminary meeting with the doctor.

Sources said doctors had detected a cancerous growth in the head of his pancreas in July, which eventually invaded his bile duct at the time of his death.

From the time the cancerous growth was detected, Dr Parkar, his physician, had been visiting him at home every morning to check on his health. Sources said that Thackeray did not wish to be hospitalised or undergo any aggressive treatment and wanted to be treated at home instead. In fact, he was on palliative treatment that only alleviates pain, but does not defer death.

Thackeray's condition took a turn for the worse last Saturday, when he called for his extended family - including nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and his wife, but suddenly lost consciousness while talking to them. Since then, his health went steadily downhill, sources said.

Thackeray was breathing with the help of a device called a BiPAP (Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure) machine - a non-invasive ventilator that maximises the supply of oxygen into the lungs and then into the blood - for the final 10-15 days of his life and was 86 when he died.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.