|A tense Raima Sen arrives at Belle Vue Clinic early on Monday; she leaves more than an hour later with a hint of a smile. Pictures by Amit Datta and Bhubaneswarananda Halder
She is fine today… and I hope things stay like that. Yesterday, she wasn’t keeping too well. Her condition has been fluctuating rapidly.
Yes, I’m stressed. And is it not natural? She is my mother. She is my queen.
That was Moon Moon Sen at Belle Vue Clinic at 9.45pm on Monday, some 18 hours after her frantic calls had brought daughters Raima and Riya rushing back to their grandmother’s bedside.
A frantic Raima, in the deserted lobby at 3.45am on Monday morning, had urged the hospital’s elevator to “come on…”, as she waited to reach the ITU floor.
The doctors had arrived one by one. And Suchitra Sen fought back.
Enough for her granddaughters to leave for home, reassured, after 5am. But Moon Moon stayed on, to spend yet another night by her mother’s side.
A tube inserted through Suchitra’s mouth to help her breathe was removed around 11.30am on Monday and doctors said she was coping well.
Sources said the oxygen saturation level in her blood was fluctuating but it had not dipped alarmingly till late on Monday.
Her pulse rate and heartbeats were irregular at times, and one such bout of fluctuation had triggered panic around 3.30am.
Doctors, however, said that fluctuation of pulse rate was common in patients of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Her condition has not deteriorated after withdrawal of the endotracheal tube, which is encouraging. But she remains critically ill. The main thing is her age and her chronic airways disease,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra, who is leading the medical team treating Suchitra Sen at Belle Vue Clinic.
“Associated medical conditions like thyroid problem, diabetes and other conditions, too, are against her. So, we are fighting against the odds at this age. She is co-operating. Her family members are co-operating. At least, if not improvement, there is no further deterioration and we can hope for the best,” he added.
The team of doctors first held a meeting with Moon Moon, Raima and Riya to discuss the possibility of removing the endotracheal tube.
It had been fitted on Saturday evening after blood and secretions had accumulated in her throat leading to severe breathing problems.
“The family members were not in favour of the tube. However, they had agreed to it on Saturday because it was a life-saving procedure then,” said a source.
The tube was removed around 11.30am.
“After a discussion about the risk-benefit ratio within the medical board and with Suchitra Sen’s family, it was decided that the endotracheal tube should be withdrawn. It has been withdrawn successfully,” Maitra said.
It was a “big” decision. “We were apprehensive that there would be a fall in her oxygen saturation level after removal of the tube. But even after one-and-a-half hours, the oxygen saturation level in her blood was satisfactory, given her condition. Her blood pressure and heart rates are also within reasonable limits,” the doctor said around 1.30pm.
Sen was put on oxygen support but not on non-invasive ventilation or bi-pap, which pushes the oxygen directly into the lungs.
“Although her heart rate occasionally fluctuates, in general it remains in normal rhythm with satisfactory blood pressure readings. Her diet therapy through feeding tube continues,” said a medical bulletin issued by Belle Vue at 1pm.
“We had administered medicines to control the pulse rate last night. Now it has stabilised,” said a doctor.
Raima and Riya, who left the hospital at 5.15am, returned at 10.20am on Monday to be there for the discussions with the medical board about the removal of the endotracheal tube. Moon Moon was there throughout.
“Moon Moon has shown remarkable stamina and resilience. She barely leaves her mother’s side. The fluctuations in Suchitra Sen’s condition leave her distraught but her dedication to her mother is amazing,” said a doctor.
The granddaughters left again around 12.40pm accompanied by their father Bharat Dev Varma after doctors pronounced that Sen’s oxygen saturation level was holding up after removal of the tube.
Doctors said “she was conscious and communicating with her family and us through gestures”.
Even if she is not needing bi-pap at the moment, secretions are still accumulating in her lungs, X-ray and CT scan tests have revealed.
“Her oxygen saturation level is fluctuating between 80 and 85 (out of 100). But, at times, it’s dipping below that too,” said a source.
Because of the fluctuation, and the weakness and exhaustion, Suchitra remained drowsy through the day.
“She did gesture that she wanted to drink water,” said a source. And she managed to do that without a problem.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee visited the screen icon — who has lived as a recluse for over three decades — for the sixth day on the trot. But on Monday evening she reportedly saw Suchitra from a distance, without entering her ITU cabin.
Suchitra is being fed through Ryles tube and that has ensured the basic calorie intake. She was not being able to have food orally, making it necessary for doctors to introduce the tube, which was done after seeking her permission on Sunday.
Suchitra was unwilling to be put on the feeding tube initially but after the urgency of the device was explained to her she relented and she is being able to tolerate it.
“Despite being in the ITU for such a long period, there is no evidence of infection, no temperature, her blood parameters, which are the indicators of infection, remain within normal range. We are happy from that point of view,” said Maitra.