Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: When Doctor Kafeel Ahmad Emptied His Own Pocket to Keep Kids Breathing
Paediatrician Dr Kafeel Ahmad, who is also the department head, couldn't stop his tears as more than 60 children stopped breathing right in front of his eyes.
File photo of Dr Kafeel Khan.
Gorakhpur: On the intervening night of August 10 and 11, when all hell broke loose in ward number 100 of the BRD Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur due to alleged oxygen shortage, paediatrician Dr Kafeel Ahmad, who is also the department head, took it upon himself to save as many children as he could.
Yet, at the end of it all, he was left crying, as more than 60 children stopped breathing right in front of his eyes.
At 2am on that fateful night, Ahmad got a call from the staff of the encephalitis ward, that the oxygen supply will run dry within an hour. Knowing that continuous oxygen supply is essential for encephalitis patients, Ahmad jumped out of his bed and immediately rushed to a friend’s nursing home and borrowed three jumbo oxygen cylinders. He loaded them in his private vehicle and reached the BRD hospital by 3am. However, these new cylinders lasted only 20-30 minutes.
By the next morning, oxygen levels had dropped significantly and the children were gasping for breath. Dr Ahmad took charge and roped in all junior doctors to continue pumping oxygen with Ambu bags (small pumps used manually to aid breathing).
While repeated calls to the hospital’s oxygen supplier — who has alleged non-payment of bills — failed to restore supply, the paediatrician again went out to look for more oxygen cylinders. In the meantime, he continued negotiating with other suppliers.
Later, he managed to gather 12 more cylinders and ferried them to the hospital in his car. When finally a supplier agreed to provide oxygen if paid in cash, he sent a staff member to withdraw Rs 10,000 from his bank account to pay them. Meanwhile, junior doctors and Ahmad’s team continued to help the dying children with Ambu bags.
Yet, at the end of the day, Ahmad was in tears. He said, “What’s the use of all the money and our education when we can’t save lives. Money has no meaning if we cannot save a life. I saw so many kids die in front of me and I couldn’t do anything to save them.”
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