When the monstrous Amphan tore down power supply in Kolkata on the evening of May 20, it also snapped little Ankit’s lifeline. Well, almost.
Ankit survives on high-flow oxygen support from a machine that needs to be plugged in to a power source 24×7. But that fateful night, the spirit of humanity and compassion soared above the buffeting of a raging cyclone as good Samaritans, including complete strangers, cushioned the child and carried him to safety. A marooned landlord connected with friends and acquaintances over a feeble mobile network, an electrician took charge of rescuing the boy and his parents, an app-cab driver willed his sputtering vehicle through rising waters and a family who still had power supply threw open its home to the gasping child. The City of Joy truly lived up to its name.
Ankit lived to celebrate his second birthday on Monday.
“Around 6pm, power went off in our locality. We immediately switched Ankit to a regular oxygen cylinder. But we started panicking when the power supply wasn’t restored even after two hours. I called up Dr Prabhas Prasun Giri as we had been told that regular oxygen supply will work for my son only for a couple of hours,” said father Ashim Maity, a civic volunteer with Hooghly Police. Even as the doctor was advising Maity on what needed to be done, the mobile network died.
Ankit was only eight months old when he suffered an attack of adenovirus. He spent 11 months at the Institute of Child Health’s paediatric ICU and was discharged only three months ago rigged to an HHFNC (heated, humidified, high-flow nasal cannula), a non-invasive respiratory support imported from New Zealand by ICH doctors by raising funds.
“The boy suffers from a condition called post adenoviral bronchiectasis. Unfortunately, HHFNC does not have a battery back-up and the boy can survive on normal oxygen cylinder only for a few hours,” said Dr Giri, paediatric ICU in-charge who had treated the boy for 11 months.
Maity and wife Rituparna, who hail from Khanakul, rented a room in Panchannagram off EM Bypass after Ankit’s discharge because power supply in their native place is erratic. In anticipation that the cyclone could snap power, the couple had kept an oxygen cylinder at home with the help of landlord Parimal Kumar Roy, who lives in VIP Bazar, around 2km away. Around 8.30pm, Maity managed to send an SOS to his landlord that power had not been restored. Roy had electricity at home but the locality was in waist-deep water. He then checked with a friend, Chandra Shekhar Biswas, who also lives in VIP Bazar. Chandra Shekhar had power at home and the water level around his home was knee-deep. He was ready to provide a room if the parents could bring over the child.
“The young couple are very new in Kolkata and they do not know anyone apart from me. So I had to act quickly or the boy wouldn’t have survived,” said Roy, a retired sergeant from Indian Air Force.
Roy called up Biplab Talukdar, a local electrician, and sought help. Talukar along with friend Supriyo Biswas, an app-cab driver, reached out to the Maitys. Talukdar tried to get hold of a generator set so that the child would not have to venture out in such inclement weather. But when nothing worked, the duo decided to ferry Ankit to Chandra Shekhar’s home.
“There was water all around. Water started entering the cab as we moved. The child was gasping for breath and my friend kept driving through the water,” said Talukdar. At Chandra Shekhar’s home Talukdar arranged a special plug that was required to connect Ankit’s machine from his own pocket. The cab driver refused to charge a penny for the ride.
Chandra Shekhar, who has three other members in the house, vacated a room for the boy and his parents. They were given food and shelter for the next two days till power supply was restored at the Maity’s rented accommodation.
“When my son was in hospital it was the doctors who raised funds for his treatment and the machine, which were beyond my means. Now, my landlord, who I have known for just three months, and complete strangers jumped in to help my boy. I am absolutely touched,” a tearful Maity said.
Ankit had celebrated his first birthday in hospital. His second was celebrated in their rented room. The family needs to stay back in the city for his treatment and his father has often skipped work. But his bosses at Khanakul have been kind enough to give him leave whenever he has needed it.
“Life has been tough but the help from such Samaritans have made it a little easier for us. Even now we need funds for Ankit’s medication, some of which are very expensive. We hope help will come from the city that believes in giving,” said Maity.
Source: Times of India