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Race to keep lungs clear

- Invasive procedure begins on Suchitra Sen

Calcutta, Jan. 11: Doctors put a tube through Suchitra Sen’s mouth this afternoon to clear some of the congestion in her throat and lungs after a bout of severe breathing problem around 3.30pm.

They said the cause of the acute breathlessness was accumulation of secretion in the 82-year-old’s throat and lungs. According to the doctors, this could have led to choking and cardiac arrest.

“At 3.30pm, she suffered respiratory distress because of accumulation of secretion in her throat. We had to take emergency decisions, which we had earlier not wanted to. We had planned that the entire treatment would be non-invasive but had to insert a tube through her throat to bring out the secretion,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra, who is leading a team of doctors at Belle Vue Clinic to treat the screen icon.

Sen had earlier vehemently opposed any invasive procedure and her family had supported her. The doctors had respected the decision. Today, they were left with no other option.

The tube was used to suck out the secretion and also supply concentrated oxygen to her lungs. Till this afternoon, she had been intermittently put on non-invasive ventilation, in which equipment covering the mouth and nose was used to supply oxygen to the lungs. “But now, the oxygen is being supplied through the tube directly to the lungs. A decision on whether to bring out the tube will be taken tomorrow afternoon,” a doctor said.

While the secretion was being sucked out, doctors found traces of blood and Sen was administered adrenalin drug to stop the bleeding.

After the secretion was sucked out through the tube, Sen’s condition improved.

Doctors said she continued to be critical but stable at night.

Moon Moon Sen, who had left Belle Vue around 8.20pm looking tortured by her mother’s agony, returned to the hospital around 10pm to spend the night with her.

Earlier in the evening, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had gone to see the screen icon in the intensive therapy unit. This was her fourth visit in a week.

“The oxygen saturation in her blood is varying between 96 and 100 (out of 100). The rate of respiration is also satisfactory, between 19 and 25 a minute (22 per minute is considered satisfactory for a person of Sen’s age). The pulse rate and blood pressure levels are stable. All blood tests showed normal results and sugar and haemoglobin levels in the blood are under control,” said Maitra, the critical care expert.

She was sedated when the tube was inserted in her throat in the evening.

Sen was admitted to Belle Vue Clinic with acute chest infection on December 23. Since then, her condition has not improved, the doctors said.

She has been suffering from shortness of breath for several years because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For three-and-a-half years, Sen has been on oxygen therapy at home.

“She can’t have food through the mouth because of the tube and so is on intravenous nutrition. Earlier, she had been given one bottle of nutrition supplement but today, two bottles were administered that supplemented for 1,500 calories,” Maitra said.

Mamata, who was at the hospital for an hour, visited Sen in her room.

“I saw she was sleeping. She has countless fans and everyone is concerned. This is a very sensitive time. Doctors are the best guardians and we’ll all be happy when she returns home after recovering. Daughter Moon Moon, (granddaughters) Riya and Raima, and everyone are with her,” the chief minister said.

Veteran physician Sukumar Mukherjee was today inducted into the team of doctors looking after Sen. He examined her in the afternoon and was among those who stressed the importance of the invasive treatment, sources said.

Sen, the sources said, had been drowsy since morning and hardly spoke to anyone.

“Her oxygen saturation level was above the desired level. But since noon, the level of carbon dioxide started increasing and the crisis started,” a source said.