International Nurses Day (12 May) : Compassion Doesnot Need a Medical Prescription

aruna1Aruna means dawn, but Aruna Shanbaug has not seen the rising sun for last 42 years. A bed at KEM hospital has been her home the address of which she does not know. The nurses and doctors of KEM hospital have been her family, none of whom does Aruna recognise. And legal battles have been faught in the highest court of the country regarding whether she should die, about which she does not know. Who is Aruna Shaunbagh ?

In the year 1973, KEM hospital , Mumbai, had amongst its large number of staff nurses, a nurse named Aruna Shaunbagh. She was like any other young 25 year old girl, bubbly, happy and looked forward to her marriage to a doctor working in the same hospital. However destiny had something else in store.

On the night of 27 November 1973, Aruna was assaulted in the hospital by Sohanlal Valmiki , a sweeper on contract with the KEM hospital. He attacked and physically assaulted Aruna when she was changing her clothes in the hospital basement, strangling her with a dog chain. The asphyxiation cut off oxygen supply to her brain and she went into a vegetative state.

For the last 42 years Aruna occupies a bed in the side room of Ward 4 of the hospital.Batches after batches of nursing and doctors over last 40 years have taken care of Aruna whom they consider as their own. The medical committee appointed by the Supreme Court hearing the plea for euthanasia for Aruna found Aruna to be well cared for by the hospital staff. The committee also found that that Aruna’s colleagues feel strongly that they will keep taking care of Aruna as best as possible till her natural death . Shanbaug undergoes a medical check-up daily by the hospital doctors and has not developed a single bed sore till date. The nurses and doctors attending to Aruna have reported that Aruna responds to sound and likes Lata Mangeshkar’s songs and bhajans.

In an annual ritual, each and every batch of nursing students is introduced to Ms. Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, and is told that “She was one of us”; “She was a very nice and efficient staff nurse but due to the mishap she is in this bed-ridden state”.

We at Sampurnaa bow our heads to the doctors and nurses who have stood by their colleague. There is not medical hope for Aruna, but there is hope for mankind because there are such doctors and nurses who can challenge death. Because care and sense of duty does not need a medical prescription.