The Telegraph
Thursday , December 15 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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I crawled towards the light

- Close shave and heartbreak at AMRI
Tapan Kumar Saha

Tapan Kumar Saha of Tripura escaped death twice in 24 hours. The 58-year-old contractor fell badly at a construction site around noon last Thursday. Doctors diagnosed a broken leg and advised immediate surgery. So his relatives flew him to Calcutta in the afternoon and admitted him to AMRI Hospitals Dhakuria. Saha recounted to Metro how he escaped death a second time a few hours later.

I was admitted to a male ward on the third floor on Thursday night. The pain in my leg was so intense that I could not sleep. I was also nervous about my surgery, scheduled in the morning.

Around 3.15am, I smelt smoke inside the ward and immediately alerted my relatives in the city.

There were 12 patients in the ward. Within 15 minutes all of us realised that there was a fire somewhere close by. We kept asking the two nurses what had happened. I wanted to step out of the ward to find out but could not even get off the bed because of the fracture. The patient next to me, too, could not walk because of a fractured waist. I could see the others hovering near the door.

Nearly 45 minutes had passed this way and smoke had filled the ward making breathing difficult. The lights were off. We could not see anything because all the windows were by the corridor outside and sealed.

One of the patients seemed to know the location of the windows on the corridor. He told us that he would move towards the northern end of the corridor where there was a window and break it. He advised us to try and make it to the broken window so that we could breathe fresh air. He did as he said. By 5am, all the other patients in the ward, except the one with the fractured waist, had gathered by the window.

I realised I would die if I did not make it safety. Despite almost unbearable pain, I got off the bed. Since I could not walk, I started crawling along the floor using my elbows towards the broken window.

It was past 5am and the first light of dawn was coming in through the window. All of us waited with bated breath for the rescue operation to start.

I had lost my cellphone by then but before that I had managed to speak to my relatives several times and let them know our location. Finally, around 7.15am, the firemen arrived and rescued us one by one through the broken window.

I was taken straight to Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals. I am thankful to God that I am alive. But I keep wondering what happened to the patient with the fractured waist. I hope he is safe.

(As told to Mita Mukherjee)