The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on India. It has swept across the nation, crushing the country’s health infrastructure and overburdening frontline medical workers on the way. Hospitals are unable to keep with the number of rising cases as they face acute shortages in oxygen, beds, and medicines. On April 20, siblings Payal Singh and her brother Akash drove to Lucknow from Lakhimpur Kheri for their mother’s dialysis. However, their mother, Parul Singh developed a fever that day, leading to the hospital asking for an RT-PCR report. What was a same-day treatment, turned into an ordeal of more than a week.
The siblings never imagined that they would have to spend four nights in their vehicle, bundled up in the front two seats, with their Covid-19 positive mother in the back seat and her oxygen tank in the trunk of the vehicle. All the while when she was requiring dialysis. Their mother got a hospital bed on the fifth day, taking five more days to stabilize. The family took her home afterwards, but the siblings spent 10 days in their vehicle in the hospital’s parking lot. During which, one of them got infected as well.
“We gave her samples for the test but since she was a suspected case of Covid-19, we had no other option but to spend the night in our car in the hospital’s parking lot and bought food from local joints. Going to any relative’s place or hotel would have exposed them to infection,” said Payal, while narrating how the hope to get some assistance in the next hour kept them in Lucknow all through. The next day, Parul’s test report came positive, leaving the family in a precarious situation. As the regular hospital refused to conduct dialysis, the siblings with the help of friends, found a private hospital that agreed to perform the procedure but cancelled it later when Parul’s oxygen level started dropping.
"There was no oxygen-supported bed in the hospital. Going back to Lakhimpur or any adjoining district was not an option. We frantically called helplines but nothing worked. However, through a contact, we got five small oxygen cans for Rs 1,300 that lasted for only a few minutes,” Payal recalled. The family stayed back in Lucknow on April 22, hoping for a better situation. After Parul’s oxygen levels improved a little, the hospital agreed to go through the dialysis procedure. Though the dialysis was, hospitalization for Covid-19 treatment was still not clear.
Payal said, “To maintain her oxygen levels, we made mother her lie in a prone position on the backseat and spent another night in the car, simultaneously searching for an oxygen cylinder. Help came on April 23 when my father brought a cylinder from Lakhimpur in a hired car. We put her on oxygen support in the car itself and sent our father home to protect him from infection.” However, the oxygen cylinder only brought temporary relief. The siblings continued to hunt for an oxygen-supported bed in hospitals but nothing materialised and April 23 was also spent in the car."
"We made hundreds of distressed calls during this period – one brought hope, another ended in disappointment. Since all well-wishers kept trying for bed and motivated us all along, we pushed on. My mother also showed exemplary determination. Finally, on April 24, my mother got a bed in RMLIMS. After her condition stabilised, she was discharged on April 30,” she said.
On April 22, Akash developed mild systems and tested positive for Covid-19, leading to him remaining isolated in the vehicle. This meant Payal had to arrange everything from medicines to food and finances. She also took medications as a precautionary measure. “We had only Rs 12,000 when we reached Lucknow and had to ask our father to transfer more money. All this while, we used public toilets and sanitised seats with sanitiser spray after usage,” added Payal.