July 2012: Mr Abdul Rehman Shaikh, 75 year old male was hospitalised in the ICU with sudden paralysis of the right side of the body. A diabetic since 20 years and ischemic heart disease with a poor cardiac function since 10 years, his regular activities had already reduced due to a poor heart conditioning. And now to increase his morbidity, he had had a stroke, which affected his left or dominant side of the brain. He lost his speech, the power to move his right hand and leg, control over his bladder and bowel movements, but not his power to live. He was discharged after a few days in a bed ridden state with a poor chance of long term survival.
But the worst was far from over. Within a few days, he was back at the hospital with a gangrene of the foot. The blood supply to the leg was found to be very poor due to long standing diabetes. As a result of this, his left foot had to be amputated. His heart which was already compromised, couldn't take it further, and he suffered a cardiac arrest in the hospital. Due to the resuscitation efforts of the medical personnel, Mr Shaikh did survive, but suffered extensive irreversible damage to his brain. The doctors did manage to get him off the ventilatory support, but he had slipped into a vegetative state for life. He now had a feeding tube,a breathing tracheostomy tube to aid the removal of his tracheal secretions and a urine catheter. He barely opened his eyes, neither responded to anybody's touch nor call, and was mechanically fed by the nurses. The doctors had given up hope completely this time and sent him home with no chances of survival.
July 2017: 5 years have passed. Every 6 months, he is brought by his daughters to the hospital for a routine physical checkup, a change of tubes, and a battery of investigations.
The results always amaze the doctors. They find no deterioration in any parameters. The sugars are well controlled, the lungs are breathing normally, the heart is pumping with the same force as before, there is not a trace of a bed sore and not an iota of infection in the urine. Neurologically he may be the same, but we are still hoping for Abdul Rehman Shaikh to get up and talk to us.
This is not a miracle but a dedicated effort by the near and dear ones to keep the hope alive. On one hand we have sons who ask us on just the second day of ventilatory support, "Doc, should we remove the respirator and take our papa home" and on the other hand we have a certain Mr Shaikh's daughters who despite the doctors giving a 'no chance' certification, have persevered with their efforts.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity