The Telegraph
Saturday , January 18 , 2014
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Peek into ITU 207, recluse’s room with a view

Suchitra Sen’s window to the world at ITU 207 was a curtained glass one overlooking a leafy canopy and Minto Park.

The intensive therapy unit, where she was shifted on December 29, after six days in a private cabin, is one of the few VIP cabins in the main wing of Belle Vue Clinic with a wall-to-wall glass window.

The actress did not allow a television in the room and occasionally asked the nurses to pull the curtain so she could look at the world outside.

The extreme left corner of the cabin on the second floor is where Suchitra spent the last 20 days of her life.

The 10ftx12ft room has a bed on wheels and various life-support and monitoring gadgets, but no TV like other VIP rooms.

“She didn’t want a TV… nor was she in a condition to watch,” said a nurse.

“Her condition was fluctuating throughout. When she used to feel better, she would request us to pull back the curtain. She was helped to sit on the bed from where she looked outside at the trees and the park.”

The room is different from 19 others in the ITU. A curtain covered the glass entrance and a hospital guard was posted outside round the clock.

“Only her closest family members, doctors treating her, nurses and group D staff were allowed inside that cabin. Apart from them, the only other person who visited her was chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” said a source at Belle Vue.

Daughter Moon Moon, granddaughters Raima and Riya, son-in-law Bharat Dev Varma, and a couple of family friends were the only ones allowed inside.

A monitor to the left of the bed’s headrest played the key role in Suchitra’s treatment. It showed the vital parameters — oxygen saturation level in her blood, pulse rate, heart rate and blood pressure — and three nurses kept watch 24x7.

“Since she didn’t allow blood tests in her last few days, there was no way to know whether the carbon dioxide level was going up or other parameters were functioning well. We had to completely depend upon this monitor,” said a doctor.

The ITU 207 at Belle Vue Clinic where Suchitra Sen was being treated since December 29. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh

If the parameters showed irregularities, the nurses used to call a medical officer or a senior doctor posted outside the cabin.

Once in a while a curious doctor would push the door open and try to steal a glance at the reclusive screen icon.

“If she noticed (the peeking), she would immediately express her disapproval,” said an official of the hospital.

“Who is he? Why was he in my room?” she would reportedly ask the nurses.

The sources said she would allow only Samsuzzaman Kazi, a doctor in the medical team, to make a central channel in her vein to administer medicine. “Where is he? Let him come then you can start all this,” she would reportedly say.

It was Kazi who withdrew the channel from her hand after she passed away, the sources added.

A red leather chair to her left was where Moon Moon used to sit. Day in and day out.

The nurses would sit on stools. If other visitors or the CM came, extra chairs were brought in.

“That was the chair on which she wanted to sit on January 3, the first day Mamata called on her. She was too weak and the doctors advised her against it,” said an official.

Nurses Shikha Pathak and Mary George, who were by her side in her last days, described Suchitra as an endearing old woman.

“Her behaviour was always nice and polite. When she was in great pain, she would just say ‘Ma’ and try to bear with it,” said Pathak. “When she felt better, she used to ask if we had had our food,” she said.

Suchitra had only tea and water orally in her last two days. “She was suffering and yet she told me on Wednesday that she would have tea with me one day,” said George, a veteran who was on duty in the hospital during the last days of Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray as well.

The nurses said Suchitra would often pray for hours with prayer books clutched in her hand and eyes closed.

“No one would disturb her then. Doctors would look at the monitors and leave quietly,” said a source.


Dec. 23: Suchitra Sen admitted to Belle Vue Clinic with acute chest infection under a team of doctors led by critical care expert Subrata Maitra. Suffering from respiratory distress and wheezing

Dec. 29: Wheeled into intensive therapy unit from a private room after she complained of chest pain. Pulse rate and heartbeat irregular. Chest X-ray and CT scan reports reveal congestion and fluid in the lungs

Dec. 30: Slight improvement but still weak. On oxygen and antibiotics

Dec. 31: Condition better but pulse rate still irregular. Eats a light meal of soup, rice, lightly cooked chicken and fish

Jan. 1: Senior cardiologist Sunil Baran Roy added to the team of doctors

Jan. 4: Condition critical but stable. Oxygen saturation level keeps fluctuating. On non-invasive ventilation intermittently. Had to undergo physiotherapy of the chest following accumulation of excessive secretion in the lungs

Jan. 6: Condition most stable compared to the past seven days. But oxygen saturation level continues to fluctuate.

Jan. 8: Suffers a bout of respiratory distress, prompting prolonged chest physiotherapy that helps improve condition. Continues to be on antibiotics and non-invasive ventilation intermittently.

Jan. 9: Suffers respiratory distress almost throughout the day. Remains weak and drowsy. Doctors advise more protein intake

Jan 10: Suchitra tells the chief minister she wants to eat phuchkas. Her coughing and wheezing intensify and the oxygen saturation level dips to 77 (out of 100).

Around 4pm, an endotracheal tube is inserted into her lungs to suck out secretions and to supply oxygen

Jan. 11: Congestion in throat and lungs continues.

Suffers severe breathing problem around 3.30pm.

While the secretion is being sucked out, doctors find traces of blood and give Suchitra adrenaline to stop bleeding. Veteran physician Sukumar Mukherjee inducted into the team of doctors

Jan. 12: Stable. A Ryles tube inserted through nose to provide her necessary nutrition

Jan. 13: Endotracheal tube removed around 11.30am. The oxygen saturation level keeps fluctuating

Jan. 14: Does not need non-invasive support even 24 hours after the tube was removed. Sleeps well at night. Heartbeat still irregular

Jan. 15: Suchitra, weak and in pain, refuses treatment for several hours. She also refuses to communicate with family members and the doctors. On normal oxygen support

Jan. 16: Non-cooperation on. Suchitra expresses her desire to return home. Condition worsens in the afternoon, forcing doctors to put her on non-invasive ventilation

Jan. 17: Oxygen saturation level and blood pressure start falling rapidly around 6am. Suffers a massive cardiac arrest at 7.50am. Dies at 8.25am

(As told to Sanjay Mandal)