Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
It was 5 minutes to 10 when I checked the clock. Wow! I exclaimed to myself, I have the whole morning still in front of me to work! I work from home and on my dining table. Don't laugh at me, because from there I can preside over my house help, make sure my Mother goes to the hospital for the 3 times a week dialysis and also take care of the couriers and sundry other visitors. I give instructions for what will be cooked and at times walk into the kitchen to make sure the recipe is accurately being followed. In short, I am a work at home, home maker cum working mom. And I am skilled in many other home tasks. I have scoured, plastered and painted a room, cleaned spark plugs in a car, repaired a wall that had lost all its plaster-of-paris coating, I am quite tom boyish and would take on any task absolutely. My husband is blessed in short, to have such an uncomplaining wife. Smile! smile! But I never knew that saving life was to be added in my list of odd jobs.
Getting back to where I began. At 10:00 a.m. I had just made a call that had not been picked up. I was planning to leave a message so the person would call me back. My mother's care giver shouted from the balcony, "Aunty, Aunty!" Her voice getting louder and more anxious. We ran! My full time maid, the cleaning maid and I. I reached first, to find my mother having a seizure, her mouth open on one side, crooked, her face hardened, she had no consciousness, her body stiffening. I thought it was a heart attack. We immediately put her flat on the floor. Just last evening I was in an exhibition and a girl had fainted, my colleague, a Retired Navy commander had done exactly that to revive her, serendipity! My mother’s tongue rolled out and she bit it, blood trickled out of the tongue. I opened her mouth and pushed the tongue in. Her eyes were wide open and rolled up. Her lips blue. The maids began to cry. I took courage and remembered the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation process (CPR). Heave, heave, heave, at the chest and blow in through the mouth. I had forgotten the exact method, but I kept pressing the chest and blowing into her mouth.
Call the Ambulance! I thought. I could not operate the smart phone, my hands were wet and shaky. I had 3 house helps at home at that time, all 3 had no idea what to do. I sent one to get a neighbour, who would take charge of the phone. The sun shone down at us at the balcony, where my mother lay unconscious. I prayed, as I resuscitated her, that she may not die like this. Two of the maids rubbed her hands and legs frantically. I had no hope, there was no pulse that I could detect. There was just a limp body, which we kept resuscitating and massaging hopelessly. I finally called the ambulance, the first number, I was put on hold. The next number, I had luck, the ambulance started from the hospital. I calculated 45 minutes in rush hour traffic. I realised I was not making any progress with my mother. I called a Doctor friend from another city and took his help to learn the right technique to resuscitate. I called my husband, but he would take time to come. A neighbour was still needed. One neighbour had shut her door in some sort of urban fear of death and dying!
Finally a neighbour called, we had plans to meet that day, she was just checking if I was available, I asked her to come, and she came almost instantly. It was she who took charge of the phone from that moment on, coordinating with the ambulance, my husband, the maids and my doctor friend's instructions. She also tried to find a doctor in the apartment. With her around, many thanks to her presence, I put my entire attention to my mother's resuscitation.
Nobody can give or take a life. God made it such that only he knows when a person will cross the threshold of life into death. We are just mediums. And on that day I was going to be his medium to save my Mother. I saw a faint twitch of an eyelid and I knew she was alive. Then a finger just barely moved and I knew she was trying to get back, and then slowly, laboriously, she became more and more present and I knew it was working. Heave! Heave! Heave! blow in, I kept doing it till she got up. And then the doctor friend called again, he kept calling me to check the progress, bless the good soul, he advised for us to get some sugar syrup, she might be hypoglycaemic (extremely low blood sugar level, it is really dangerous for diabetics). We made half a cup of sugar syrup and started spooning it into my mother’s mouth. By this time the ambulance arrived. 40 minutes after the ordeal began. She drank half of the syrup by the time the paramedics were in my house.
The 40 minutes of hell had ended, I got up from the balcony exhausted, my knees would give way but I kept standing, I had yet more to do. I was walking in a trance. A state of shock I could not easily snap out of. I just kept up with the task at hand. It took me three days to recover from the shock. I realised I had just brought back my Mother to life. A person who was ailing for almost 3 years now. Someone who was praying to God to not live. Who am I to take that decision on behalf of God? I feared relapse, I feared the worse. I went in the ambulance holding my mother's hand all the while, giving her hope. She hung by a thin line, hope mixed with fear and exhaustion. At the hospital Emergency Unit, the doctors took her over, informed me their course of action, a routine procedure, and handed me the slip to get my mother admitted to the ICU. I just held the slip and sat outside the emergency ward, waiting for my husband to come. I knew everything could wait for now. I could depend on him now. My husband arrived surprisingly quickly and took charge of her admission process. As we sat down to have tea after the admission, I realised I had an unsteady gait, I could not hold myself together anymore. We rested long enough so I could be back on my feet.
19 years ago at the midnight of 6th December, 1997, my dad had succumbed to a heart attack. I have no idea if I could have revived him, I was asleep when he passed away. I have carried a guilt since that time. As my mother lay limp, I begged God to not do it again. It was 4th of December. The significance of the timing of the incident stuck me.
Here are a few tips you need to know, when a person is having a seizure:
- Do not get nervous, you are the only life saver at that moment. Doctors and paramedics come in later.
- Make the person lie down flat on the floor and lift the mouth upward, lift up the legs by putting pillows under the legs. Do not use a pillow below the head under any circumstances. You have to open up the trachea (the wind pipe, connecting to the lung), if the head is raised the trachea gets blocked.
- Don't let the tongue roll out. I kept opening and pushing the tongue back in place.
- With your palms, one on top of the other, push the sternum (Chest), at the middle, hard. I feared I might damage the rib, the doctors say that even if you did, the person would still be saved, but I would suggest to be mindful of the pressure.
- Press the sternum three times and then open the mouth and blow in air covering the patient’s mouth fully in yours. Blow in hard.
- Under no circumstances make the person sit or attempt to take her to hospital in your car. Those minutes can be used successfully by administering CPR.
- Remember it is important that oxygen is being supplied to the patient, else the patient may end up getting paralysed. Therefore the blowing in of air mouth to mouth is done.
- Once the patient is conscious enough, administer sugar syrup to the patient, 3 spoons of sugar and a pinch of salt in half a cup of water.
CPR is an exhausting process, sweat dripped from my forehead, my arms buckled. As for the patient, CPR leaves her in immense pain. There are excruciating muscle pains on the chest area, which last as long as three months. Recovery is a painful process. CPR cannot be administered very frequently to a person.
Life is beautiful. Inexplicable and complex. Painful yet addictive. I am addicted to life and so is everyone else. And that is one addiction we could live with!