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Infection risk biggest worry

New Delhi, Dec. 23: Surgeons once again operated on the bus gang-rape victim this afternoon after her health appeared to deteriorate with signs of respiratory distress and fluid in her abdomen which, the doctors say, may signal a flaring infection.

The 23-year-old is stable and can talk, but is back on a ventilator, doctors at the Safdarjung Hospital said after the surgery.

During the operation, the doctors drained the fluid and thoroughly washed the abdomen with saline in an attempt to prevent spread of the infection.

Safdarjung’s medical superintendent, Badrinath Athani, said the patient’s bilirubin level had climbed from a value of 5.9 on Saturday to 6.3 today.

“This is a matter of concern,” he said. “She has a fever of about 100.5F, but her blood pressure and urine output are within limits.”

The victim’s multiple injuries remain a potential source of serious infection. Doctors fear that the increase in bilirubin and a slight drop in the platelet count could be an early sign of a spreading infection. “This is our biggest worry now,” said one of the doctors treating her.

Attempts to look for bacteria circulating in her bloodstream have, however, yielded no results. “Her culture results are sterile,” the doctor said.

Although the victim has received antibiotics, doctors said her response to them was “not satisfactory”.

The operation today was at least the third the victim has undergone since she was brutally raped by six men in a bus last Sunday. The men had also attacked her with an iron rod that had severely damaged sections of her intestines.

Earlier this week, doctors had to remove nearly all of the residual intestine after they found that it had lost blood supply and turned gangrenous. The victim is receiving nutrition through intravenous lines.

Psychiatrists at Safdarjung had on Saturday declared the girl “extraordinarily composed and optimistic” following her first psychological assessment since the assault.

Father’s appeal

NDTV reported late tonight that the father of the rape victim had appealed to “all to refrain from vandalism and help the police”.

“Pray for my daughter. No words can describe my daughter’s courage. She is conscious now,” the channel quoted the father as saying.