Stand up comic-writer Prashasti Singh on Sunday detailed the hospitalisation of her mother, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, giving a chilling account of India’s failing health infrastructure in the face of rising Covid-19 cases.
Prashasti Singh, who rose to fame with Amazon Prime Video’s Comicstaan in 2018, posted a series of short notes on Instagram about the state of panic at a Lucknow hospital, caused by lack of oxygen for Covid-19 patients. She began by mentioning that the cab service in the city was now being requested for carrying dead bodies to the crematorium.
“Mother tested positive last weekend and started worrying about her life insurance nominations. I took a flight to Lucknow the next morning. On my way home the Uber driver tells me he has been getting too many requests to take dead bodies in the car. ‘Laash Ke Vaaste wali gaadi ka bahut shortage hai, madam’. Everyone is sick, too many are dying,” read a part of her note.
The stand up comedienne added that she was first told by a doctor that it was difficult to get her mother a hospital bed and they got lucky only after “pulling all strings.”
“Pulled all strings. Found space in one hospital. Reached and realized can’t leave her there alone. Hospital is severely under-equipped to handle so many patients. No one can survive this system without a member of their family volunteering to embrace Covid with them,” read the other note.
The comedienne had to run around for “12 hours” in search of an oxygen cylinder. “Next 12 I call everyone in the management and scream. A boy finally walked up to me and said, ‘Didi phone milaane se kya hoga.. ward boys ko sabko 100-50 rupiya pakdaiye aur cylinder aae to betaal jaise uspe latak jaiye’. Great advice. Next 18 hours fairly smooth. Made friends with the offloading guy, the trolley guy, the pipe fixing guy. Some accepted small money, many refused. They are good people, just stretched way beyond capacity.”
By Friday evening, the oxygen shortage became severe, wrote Prashasti. The comedienne also succinctly described the dilemmas motivated by humanity that often surrounds one when everyone around is dealing with the same health emergency.
“Shortage becomes more severe by Friday night. These new friends couldn’t help. You have to continuously run around, shout, plead and fight the entire night to ensure oxygen supply for your patient. Between arguments I wonder if someone needs oxygen more critically than we do, and then quickly snap back. You are responsible for one life right now. Can’t afford to care about more;” Prashasti wrote that Saturday morning saw her and several other family members of patients running to get hold of oxygen cylinders as if it was a race.
“Saturday morning, the system has broken down completely. Cylinders arrive, people run and get hold of whatever they can and drag it to their wards. The first time it happened I almost grabbed one but couldn’t drag the weight. Second time my bribe friend took pity and helped me drag.”
In her concluding note, the stand up comic wrote about seeing “seven dead bodies in the last three days” and also her inability to process the trauma as “We are too exhausted trying to keep our people alive.”
“Mother seems to be recovering slowly. Everyday I remind myself I can’t complain, hospital bed in these times is a luxury. Think about what’s happening with others. And then I start thinking about others, and then I have to stop myself. Before this week, I had seen a total of 2 dead bodies in my life. I must have seen at least 7 in the last 3 days. No one is processing anything. We are too exhausted trying to keep our people alive. The night is going to be long. I have to stay up and arrange one more cylinder. Walked past an old lady trying to figure out how to get oxygen for her husband. How will she grab and run? She will figure something out maybe. Someone in the ward next to me is howling. I am trying to distract myself with Instagram,” the artiste concluded.
India on Sunday reported 2,61,500 new Covid-19 cases and 1,501 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to data from the Union Health Ministry.