It was around 11.15 pm, I woke up from my already disturbed sleep for two reasons. Firstly, the roof lights were on. Secondly, amidst the quite A/C sleeper coach humming noise and the constant titak-titak-titak-titak's from the running train, I heard someone coughing continuously. When I opened my eyes, from my lower berth seat, I saw a lady in Burqa with a man sitting next to her in the side berth on the other side of the aisle. The man sat with a kerchief in his mouth was slowly coughing and the women appeared to be consoling him.
Was he supposed to sit or stand? should he eat or drink anything? is he allowed to lie down? I was also thinking about the possible choking from blood entering his lungs and concerned about it. I was clueless at that time and only wished I was some kind of doctor with super powers to heal the man's condition by a simple touch.
I asked the TTE to look for any doctors traveling in the train. From the passenger manifest we were lucky to find a doctor by the name Dr. V Rao traveling in the first class compartment. I was relieved a bit. I assured the lady some support and with the TTE we rushed towards the first class compartment to fetch the doctor.
After crossing 2 compartments I was jolted to find a very old man in white shirt and white pants lying down in the vestibule on the floor between the compartments.
His head was down and tongue was drooping out and he was leaning on the toilet wall. I sprinted near him and started tapping the man's shoulder. I shouted and asked if he was Ok! I checked his shirt pocket to see if he had any ID and to my disappointment there was no ID in his pockets.
We were very fortunate there. The old man started responding and moved his head. He could barely open his eyes but was trying to lift his right hand to get up from there. I continuously shouted and asked him what really happened and if he was hurt. He did not say anything but he wanted to get up. He appeared to be fine but had fallen down in between the vestibules due to the compartments constantly shaking. He was really old too. I palpated his spine to look for injuries and found nothing.
While he was lying down I requested the TTE to get into the A/c compartment to find out who he was traveling with and to get some more support. The TTE went inside and came back real quick. This old man was traveling with his wife and she had no idea that her husband was lying down outside the compartment. With the help of the TTE I lifted the old man and took him inside the cabin. We made him lie down on his side berth seat. He was extremely week and fragile. His wife confirmed about his diabetic condition and that he was running really low on sugar.
The TTE turned on the light and I started waking up the co-passengers in the compartment and asked to get some sugar or any sugary soft drink. Few hands extended towards me with chocolates and cakes but there was no sugar or sugary drink. I took some cake and started feeding the old man. He showed a bit of reluctance in the beginning but started eating. We settled him down on the lower berth bed in the recovery position and I measured his pulse. The pulse was alright. She mentioned that another possibility that the man had consumed a sleeping pill. The situation was very confusing for me to deal with.
At the Kurnool station the trained pulled in and the couple got down. They bid good bye and I prayed to the God to take care of this man and his family.
After reflecting on what just happened, the TTE and I decided to move on and settle down and catch some sleep. I felt extremely relieved but ended up dozing off with mixed thoughts.
The train finally arrived at Hyderabad in the morning. I got down from my compartment and ran towards the first class compartment to meet the old couple. I was so happy to find the doctor and his wife slowly walking towards the exit with their bags. The doctor was looking absolutely fine and sound. His wife smiled and thanked me. She introduced me to her husband. He was completely clueless about the series of events in the night and the amount of panic and confusion he managed to create. I offered my help to get their suitcase and bag till the exit and also requested them to pose for a selfie. They obliged with a smile.
While walking towards the exit we chatted and it came to my surprise that this doctor was an oncologist.
6 things to change in Indian Railways system
This train ride and the disturbing experience kept me agitated about the uncertainties that we get to deal around us. It kept me wondering about the safety of the medically vulnerable population and the fragile senior citizens traveling in India - especially those using public transportation.
Since the system around is not so friendly and has no science behind its design it is prudent to be prepared. It is also my humble request to the Rail Minister to bring in drastic reforms to make the train journey a memorable and a safe one.
1. If you are diabetic and there is a history of becoming hypoglycemic (abnormally low sugar), it is absolutely necessary to wear a medical tag or an ID explaining your medical conditions. Also don't forget carry a sachet of sugar or a small candy in your pocket. Indian Railways should have Emergency Response kits in the trains - could be under the care of the TTE but its a must. I also hope all the TTE's and the train attendants are trained on First-Aid & CPR. Indian Railways also must insist the medical condition of the travelers to be declared while making the reservations.
3. Don't expect the TTE's to help, they are helpless too. How many travelers can send a Twitter message to Indian Railways authorities. Today I found a link to all the Twitter accounts belonging to Indian Railways and they are extremely confusing. Can't Indian Railways have a simple handle for the 24x7 emergency?