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Sunday July 14, 2024

Waiting for death to take away her miseries

By Mobarik A Virk
January 17, 2017

City Diary

Islamabad

It was around 9pm Sunday. A steady downpour has started. Though it has turned bitterly cold but still the air seemed so sweet and invigorating, loaded with the fragrance of rain. I was on my way back home with a friend after a long day’s work in office when we received a distress call.

“Hello! Look, there is a poor woman about to die in the BBH (Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital). Or maybe she is dead already. She is lying in Ward 12 on bed 12. She is all alone, unconscious and fighting for life. Her family is in Gujar Khan. They are too poor to even pay the fare to come to Rawalpindi. They are waiting for her to die. But even more important is that they don’t have any money to pay for the ambulance to take the dead body to Gujar Khan nor do they have any money to bear the cost of funeral and burial. Can you do something?” the caller kept speaking without a break.

“Let me see what we can do. You text me the name of the patient and the ward and bed number please,” my friend asked. “We are on our way to the hospital.” We rushed to the BBSH as briskly as the rain and the traffic would allow us.

And there indeed she was! Lying unconscious in a bed in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) of the hospital. A tube inserted through her nose with a huge syringe at the other end. Probably for feeding her. At first sight she seemed to be dead. And then a few bubbles of air popped up in the syringe. She was breathing! She was alive!

We talked to the nurses at the nursing station. “She is in a very critical condition. She has multiple problems and she is fighting for her life,” the nurse at the nursing station told us.

We returned to the curtained cubicle where she was lying. My friend tried to stir her up. She remained irresponsive.

My friend tried again.

She stirred slightly but it was a stir of agony. Unconscious, under heavy doses of sedatives and pain killers, she seemed to be in peace. She obviously does not want to return to reality. It must have been too painful, too agonising for her.

And then two ladies appeared on the scene. One was her elder sister and the young one was her niece. And what we gathered from the two it seemed death was bliss for the dying one!

Born, bred and brought up in utter poverty she lived a life of deprivation, rejection and total dependence on others. We wondered if a smile of happiness and contentment had ever touched her lips.

We really wonder if she had any moments of real happiness. She was forced to live as spinster because of some gynecological complications she developed from child hood.

She dedicated her life serving those around her and in return she earned the right to get a shelter, food and clothing. She suffered from ailments but never complained because seeing a doctor would mean paying consultation fee and then buying medicines, thus spending money. And money she did not have.

She lost her parents and two brothers. There is only one elder sister who sat by her bedside in gloom and a harassed looking, malnourished niece, who looked beyond her age. Both inadequately dressed for the bitterly cold weather outside.

My friend made a phone call to confirm if we were with the same patient for whom help was sought.

“Yes. Yes. We have already reached hospital. . . . Yes. By her bed side. . . . . What was the name you said? . . . . Ishrat Firdous. Okay. Bye.”

The old lady and her daughter were nodding their heads in agreement, confirming the identity of the patient.

“Well, we were asked by a friend to help you people. In fact we were told that she is already dead (it was embarrassing to say so). We were told that you need some help for transportation of dead body and for making funeral arrangements. But thanks God, she is alive.”

The two exchanged glances. There was panic in their eyes.

“You came to help us. She is going to die anyway. Won’t you help us now?”

We didn’t have much cash on us at that time. My friend extracted some money and handed over to the young lady. “We will see what we can do for you tomorrow. Please don’t worry. It is Allah’s will. We can only pray and hope for the best.” And we left the hospital.

Ishrat Firdous has lived a long, painful life. She is lying there unconscious for a few days in the CCU in Ward 12. Life is ebbing out of her fragile body. She is under heavy doze sedatives to suppress the physical pain. Who knows what tornados of emotional torment must be blowing up in her mind?

But, in the end Ishrat Firdous (what a name her parents picked for her!) do deserve respectable if not decent last rites. A clean shroud and a grave! And for that her kin, her elder sister needs some money. We wonder if some philanthropist will turn up to take on the responsibility. Our rulers are too busy these days to pay attention to such trivialities of life.

Or, maybe I am getting overly emotional. After all, people do die every day. Be they rich or poor! Everybody will die one day or the other. Why am I getting so sentimental about this!