Stories of a hotline number – 1

Posted by Aditya Sen of Project Delhi

On Wednesday, 29th April 2020, I was on my routine call and ensuring deliveries on ground. It is usually difficult to cater to an urgent request due to the logistical constraints and we had taken a decision to get them fulfilled locally. I received a call from a far-flung area close to the border of Delhi and Haryana.

The lady called for some grocery request as they had no money to buy it themselves. I happily took the details down and assured her that she will receive her groceries in 3 days. I called my colleague Rahul and shared the details with him. We decided that we should get it fulfilled locally, as it is quite far and might take us longer than expected. Rahul initiated the process of local procurement and called the lady.

At around 3:00 pm, Rahul informed me that the couple has a month old baby and required Lactogen for her. Without much deliberation, we decided we should cater to the need and asked her to visit the nearest chemist to procure the same. Rahul, over his discussion with the lady, got to know that the baby wasn’t well. After the request was met, Rahul called me for our usual catching up. While we were discussing the unfolding of events of the day, he mentioned that the child wasn’t well and was under some medications prescribed by the local chemist. We expressed our concern. That was the end of our discussion about the child.

I usually go through the logs of the day at 9:00 pm. While I was browsing through them, I was reminded of my conversation with Rahul. Instincts kicked in and I called the lady. She picked up the call, and I enquired about the health of the child. The baby had symptoms of dysentery for the past 3 days. There were no signs of improvement even after taking medicines. I offered to arrange for an ambulance, so that the child could be taken to a hospital. The mother hesitated about traveling alone at night. Also, the child was asleep for the past two hours. I understood the situation and said, “It is fine for now, please let me know if you would like to take her to a hospital tomorrow morning, I will make sure that there is an ambulance to take you there”. She agreed to this proposal and said she will call me in the morning.

After disconnecting the call, I started preparing for dinner. While in the kitchen, I called up a friend who works with the Delhi Commission for Protection of Children Rights (DCPCR). I told her about the situation and she immediately shared an ambulance operator’s contact. It was almost 11:00 pm , I was hungry and started setting up the table.

My phone flashed. I received the call. A scared voice in distress on the other side said “Sir, Bachchi ke mooh se phen aaraha hai [the girl is frothing from her mouth]”. I realised, it was the same lady I spoke to a couple of hours back. I calmed her down, asked her to allow enough space for the baby to breathe and gather all the medical documents. I had no time to think. And started making calls for an ambulance. My dinner table lay set in front of my eyes. My eyes were glued to the phone. My mind was thinking about the child. I was able to reach the ambulance operator, and tell him about the emergency. He was unwilling to make a trip to that area at night. He just said, “All the vehicles are on duty”.

With a little persuasion and persistence, I was able to convince him to help. While that coordination was on, I called up my friend from DCPCR, and asked her to get me a list of hospitals with functional Emergency outpatient services for children. She sent me the names within a few minutes. I immediately started to map the closest hospital around the area. I had lost track of time by then. I called up the lady and informed her that an ambulance was on its way.

As I finished the mapping, the ambulance had already reached. I spoke to the driver, and after a brief discussion, we were convinced that Safdarjung hospital was our best bet. At last, they were on their way. My food was cold on the table, but my mind was able to find some solace. I looked at the time on my phone. It was 11:20 pm – the longest 20 minutes I had ever experienced.

The ambulance reached Safdarjung Hospital by 11:50 pm. The child was immediately admitted and I was assured that the situation was under control. I went to the kitchen, warmed my food and finally could eat. I couldn’t sleep until 4:00 am, and called the lady again to check on the child’s health. She sounded composed, that itself was reassuring. The child was now under proper care and supervision.

Our conversation continued. She told me about the condition of their family. She was not the biological mother of the child and had adopted her on the 28th April, 2020. Her husband was wheelchair bound. He was thankful that the crisis had passed. Later, I also arranged a drop for her from the hospital to her house.

I was aware that parenting is an act of selflessness, and that night I realised the power of being selfless. I am compelled to believe that our roles were “chosen” for the night. Everyone involved had one thing in common – selflessness!

Did I do anything extraordinary here? No. Anyone in my place would have done the same thing. And for that night, I consider myself blessed to be the chosen one.

PS: The images in this story are “representative”, as Project Delhi has a [highly commendable] policy of not sharing photographs of their beneficiaries or their activities.

Please read our story “Kindred Souls” for more details on the work and plans of Project Delhi and Aditya Sen.

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