“What is the problem? You are sweating profusely and holding your hand on your chest.” I asked the middle-aged man over fifty sitting next to me. I was travelling to Chennai from Bangalore. The train was halting at the Cantonment station and was about to depart. I had to repeat the question before he replied, “I am a heart patient. I had come to Bangalore this morning on some work. I think it is an attack. Can you kindly help me? The pain is unbearable and I am feeling breathless.”
I did not waste a moment and instantly decided to help him out. With the help of co-passengers I lifted him bodily to the platform and had his luggage and mine brought down. The train left soon without delay. With the help of the station-staff I took him in a taxi to the nearest heart-hospital. I knew that time is the essence in heart attacks. Once in the emergency, the doctors took over and soon inserted on him various tubes and administered medicines. In a short while they rushed him to ICU.
I was lost in my thoughts as I reclined on the sofa in the waiting room. It was past 11 PM and I had missed the interview that I was to attend the next day. It didn’t bother me much as I was in a good job already. I was not sure when I could leave the hospital and waited for him to be stable so that I could collect his contact-address in order to inform his relatives.
“Are you his son? Please fill in the forms for admission and pay the advance” said a charming young nurse from the ER. I replied “No, I am just a co-passenger in the train. When he fell sick and I saw his condition was serious, I decided to break my journey and rush him to the hospital.”
“Unbelievable act on your part, Sir! How compassionate and kind you are to a total stranger! Had you not brought him promptly as you did, he would have surely died. You know, about thirty percent of patients die before they reach a hospital or get medical attention. Lucky he had you as a co-passenger and his chances of survival appear good”, she said. I requested her to find out from the contents of his pocket, the contact-numbers of his home and assured her that in the meanwhile I would fill the forms and make advance payment. She smiled at me and said “I will be here very soon with the details. I am actually free till the next emergency case arrives.”
My thoughts went back several years to my dad. We were then in Kolkata. He was travelling one night to Rourkela on official business by first class. He suffered a heart attack midway in the train in the middle of the night. His co-passengers were sympathetic but made no efforts to attempt CPR or stop the train to contact the guard to keep a doctor in readiness at the next station. The train moved on even as my dad was struggling with angina and breathlessness. By the time the train reached the next station, he had breathed his last. It was in the morning as I was leaving for my school that my mom got the telephone call breaking the shocking news. Everyone felt that had he been given medical assistance in time, he would have lived. This was etched in my mind.
I was woken up from my reverie by the nurse as she said “Dozed off? Here are the contact details. He is stable and you can see him. One thing I wish to say. I have never come across such a nice person like you in my life. Tell me, what made you break your journey for an unknown person and save his life?”
“I will tell you after meeting the patient. Please wait for me” I replied before I went to meet him in ICU. He looked much better, though wan. He smiled at me and profusely offered thanks for saving his life like a son would for his dad. He asked for my details to be given to the nurse and that his son would get in touch with me. As he went on talking about his debt of gratitude, I motioned him to silence and said that I would meet him after he returned to Chennai.
When I saw the nurse waiting for me, I related the incident about my dad and his tragic end without medical aid. I told her, “I realised when I saw the old man in distress and how much he needed someone to help him that I must act. I decided in a split-second that no matter the broken journey or the missed interview, it was a call that I can hardly ignore. I am happy that I could help him survive the crisis.”
It is totally a different matter and a piece of luck for me that the interview I was to attend had got cancelled as the interviewer suffered a heart attack in a train and that a miracle also took place in my finding my wife in the attractive nurse!