Covid -19/Omicron Dying unattended!

Dr A S Bhatia
jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur dhruvam janma mritasya cha
tasmad apariharye’rthe na tvam shochitum arhasi (Bhagavad Gita :Chapter 2, verse 27).
This beautiful verse says that the Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for the one who has died. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable. The Sanskrit word for Death, “dehanta,” means “the end of body” but not the end of life. Throughout my career as a medical professional since 1990, I have tried to serve the poor and ailing without any reward in returns. It was the blessings of my mother, a Government teacher who dedicated all her life in trying to up bring the educational status of girl students, She served in the remote areas of Billawar, Khour, RS Pura and during her service, she tried her level best to give the girls the freedom they deserved. At many places she had to face the tough resistance of the local leaders but the iron lady stood by her principles. Few months back I had an opportunity to visit Khour, the border area of Jammu. I was accompanied by Harnam Singh Manhas, a resident of Khour and a very prominent leader of Manhas biradari. He told me, “Doctor Sahib, your mother served as principal of Government higher secondary school Khour. During her tenure as principal Khour, she retrieved a big chunk of land of school property from local land grabbers and had to face a tough resistance from local politicians, but she ultimately won with the support of girl students of the area and got a library built on that piece of land for girls. That place is still surrounded by huge trees of savedha, the trees which my mother had planted. While at that place, as the wind was blowing, the branches of the trees were swinging in the air and the musical sound was emitting by the passage of wind through the leaves. I stood there for a while, while looking at those sky touching towering tress, it seemed to me that my mother was smiling at me through those huge trees. Each and every tree gave me the essence of my mother; I could not stop my tears and silently told Harnaam Singh to move out of the place. He was clever enough to note the tears in my eyes and kept his arm on my shoulder and both of us walked out of the school ground silently.
It was the unfortunate day of January 24th , for me. I lost her after a battle of fourteen days in the ICU of superspeciality hospital Jammu in the year 2018. At the funeral thousands of people had thronged the funeral ground, showing the social relations ship which our mother had built during her life. I remember that during her last days of life , she was surrounded by all of us, In spite of being in agony of disease, she kept smiling, sometimes she will take the hand of Harleen , my wife in her hands and say, now you have to take care of all these kids, my husband, your husband my son are all little kids, do take care of them, she said with a glow of satisfaction of leading a fruitful life. Her end was peaceful, as she breathed her last among her family members.
How the nature can change the recourse of life, as the famous Hindi poet Narula wrote about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and truthfully described the reality with exceptional description about the people dying unattended, the roads were littered with dead bodies, the rivers were full of floating bodies, I wonder, were we heading towards that miserable situation in the first two waves of covid -19 pandemic. Although health care infrastructure has improved much since the time of Narula, but had not our people died unattended deaths , during first wave throughout the world because of lack of our understanding about the deadly virus and ways and means to prevent it.
I am feeling immense pain while recapitulating the sequence of events when a corona positive patients were admitted in the isolation wards and No family members were allowed to be on their bed side , what would have been the mental agony of that person fighting all alone in strange and different atmosphere, doctors and paramedics wrapped in PPE kits , that too may have been be possible in the initial phase of the pandemic shirking their responsibilities and treating these patients as untouchables, (A bitter truth after which many of my friends will get annoyed with me). Many would have died worldwide because of starvation, diabetics could have died of Hypoglycemia, no proper guidelines were issued by the WHO regarding how to feed these patients. But here in UT of Jammu and Kashmir, I was very happy to see the innovative method developed by the doctors at SKIMS, Kashmir where they were feeding their patients by making a hole in the oxygen mask and feeding them through a straw, which could have been the one among many reasons for low mortality in their patients. Many deaths all over the world could have been attributed to malnutrition of Covid positive patients, depression, isolation, being away from their nears and dears at the time of stress, mismanagement of their associated metabolic disorders.
The pandemic has shattered all our beliefs because of misinformation and especially by daily issuance of different guidelines by the premiere agencies of the world. Death was made more painful for the dying and for the family witnessing the death of their loved ones. Wife was not allowed to see the face of her dead husband, son was not allowed to go close to his dying mother, Daughter was not allowed to touch their father!! Now coming back, with our present knowledge. Does the virus spreads by a Dead Body.? Now everyone will come out with a big NO as the answer to the question! So lack of understanding of the disease in the first phase has made death more painful. In Hindu rituals, when the death is imminent the dying person is taken from the bed and laid to ground, facing south! The eldest son then performs a series of rituals including Vratodyapana (Completion of the vows), Savraprayascitta (atonement for everything) and finally a ritual bath in Holy water from The Ganges. More importantly when a person is dying, verses from the Vedas are recited in the ear of the dying. Our ancient culture has done a great work in ensuring that a person is well cared before he dies. But misinformation and lack of Knowledge about the corona virus had devoid many dying, of all these blessings of our thousands years old Indian culture!
If a death occurs in a family, the family and friends come together to express their grief but the first wave had forced the grieving families to keep their emotions bottled up inside. This has led to unresolved anger throughout the life. In other words the present pandemic has changed the way we mourn! During first wave , I could see there was confusion, helplessness, lack of proper guidelines , unprocessed anger, depression, lack of resources and some where hesitancy on the part of persons to handle the Covid cases!
Death is inevitable, as Yudhistir in one of the replies to the sixty questions asked by The Yakshya, the celestial God of Death , Yamraj , in disguise, Said,
“ahany ahani bhutani gachhantiha yamalayam,
Sheshah sthiratvam ichchhanti kimashcharyamatah param (Mahabharata)
“At every moment people are dying. Those who are alive are witnessing this phenomenon, and yet they don’t think that one day they will also have to die. What can be more astonishing than this?” This verse explains that life is inescapably a dead end , and a wise person does not lament over the inevitable but with the improved health care infrastructure and with better understanding of the pandemic, the death and the grief should be made less painful ,when and where the Omicron wave of the pandemic strikes!
Otherwise as Mirza Ghalib Said,
Qaid-e-hayat-o-band-e- gham
Asal mein dono ek hein
Maut se pehle aadmi
Gham se nijat paye kyon?
(The author is professor and head department of Biochemistry, Government medical College Jammu)