Nitin Cherian, 36, was an IT (information technology) professional — serving as a networking assistance at the Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI). He was temporarily posted at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital at Tahirpur in Dilshad Garden when the city began recording a surge in COVID-19 cases. He was a “corona warrior” who died in the line of duty on April 4, almost a week after contracting the virus.
As per doctors treating him, Nikhil had acute respiratory distress syndrome and mentioned “respiratory failure” as the immediate cause of his death.
While his family, including his wife and two young children, said that they do not expect much, they feel the least that could have been done was to acknowledge the sacrifice of the 36-year-old who placed his duty above everything.
His brother, Sachin Cherian, wishes that Nitin’s children get to know that their father was a hero and his sacrifice for the nation is acknowledged. He also wishes the distressed family had got some condolences and compensation from the government.
Sachin told NewsClick that he has been running from pillar to post since his brother’s death, but both Central and Delhi governments are yet to hear him out. He said he has already met secretaries to the Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Goel, but nothing has happened so far.
The deceased was a contractual employee, serving the Delhi government for the past 10 years, said his brother, adding that his contract used to be renewed every three years.
The deceased’s wife is a staff nurse at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and was also infected along with her husband. After recovery, she resumed her duty while mourning her husband’s loss, Sachin said.
Residents of Dilshad Garden, Nitin and his father ,TS Cherian, had fever and other COVID-19 symptoms, but they did not take it seriously considering it seasonal flu, his brother told NewsClick. They were taking medicines at home. On the family’s insistence, the father-son duo got an RTPCR test done at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital which came positive on March 31.
Since they had mild symptoms and all their body parameters were normal, they home quarantined themselves.
“My father had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) for a long time. Assuming that the infection could prove life threatening for him, we wanted his treatment under the supervision of expert doctors, but he was reluctant to be admitted in the hospital. Doctors had also advised his admission. His blood oxygen saturation slowly began decreasing a few days later,” Sachin told NewsClick.
As they were preparing for their father’s admission, Nitin’s health started deteriorating all of a sudden. He started vomiting and lost appetite.
“On April 1, my brother developed breathing complications at night. His oxygen saturation dipped below 85. His wife first rushed him to the Rajiv Gandhi Hospital, where he was admitted. After his admission, my father, who was already on oxygen support at home, was also admitted there the next day,” he said.
The father and the son were later shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU) as they were not responding well to the treatment in the emergency ward. According to Sachin, as a result of ventilation and shifting to the ICU, Nikhil started having anxiety.
“Though we were boosting his morale, he perhaps had conceded defeat. The anxiety took a toll on his health,” he added.
Seeing the condition of his lungs, the doctors decided to put him on Bi-PAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure) to administer him high-flow oxygen to improve saturation, Sachin added.
“It helped and he showed signs of improvement. Even doctors in the video conference call told us that he was responding well, but my father continued to be serious. On April 3, he was quite well. I had sent him food of his choice and he had that. We had a video conversation. He was looking more energetic than before. But at 11:30 p.m., we got a call from a staff known to us. Her words — ‘Sorry, we could not save Nitin’ — shocked us. How can a 36-year-old man without any comorbidity and who was recovering die suddenly? I immediately called his doctors who confirmed the death,” he said.
When Sachin went to the hospital for paper work to receive the body, another bad news was waiting for him. At around 5:30 a.m. on April 4, he got another call from the hospital informing him of his father’s death.
“Since I was unable to reconcile with the fact that my brother is no more, I met the medical director, the COVID-19 nodal officer at the hospital and doctors who were treating him to know what suddenly went wrong. I was told that he suffered from pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot), which can take place suddenly even if a person is improving. He had also suffered disorientation that night and left his bed to sleep with my father on his bed. His heart beat increased to an alarming level and then slowly sunk to 36 following which he could not be revived even after CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for close to 45 minutes,” Sachin added.
Sachin said his helpless father saw his young son die a bed away from him. “When Nitin was being resuscitated, my father realised that his son was no more. He couldn’t bear the shock and passed away in the morning. He too had a problem of disorientation as he was suffering from COPD,” he said.
Over a month later, Sachin said: “We are not expecting much. We wish that the pain and suffering a family is going through gets a caressing hand. We wish his wife and the two children (9-year-old and 8-month-old) be given compensation as a token of gratitude.”
When asked, a Delhi government spokesperson claimed the state government respects all “corona warriors” who have been fighting the pandemic on the frontlines. “We will look into the matter and take all necessary steps. If there is any negligence, we will also make sure that those responsible are held accountable,” he told NewsClick.
The Delhi government had announced that it would give compensation of Rs 1 crore to the next of kin of a “corona warrior” who lays down his life while fighting the pandemic. The policy is meant for all employees, including government, private and contractual.