Sumitra Deb Roy
MUMBAI: Breastfeeding proved a lifesaver for nearly 40 mothers and their newborns when terrorists stormed the Cama and Albless Hospitals last Wednesday.
When terrorists entered the hospital at about 10pm, there were 80 patients in two wards on the fifth floor — 40 mothers and an equal number of babies. Doctors say this is usually the time when most babies wake up and start bawling for food.
On realising that they were under attack, ward boys immediately directed everyone into the small milk room and the temperature-controlled warm room and locked themselves in. But with 40 babies pulled out of their beds, there was every chance that their cries would give their hideouts away. That’s when an ayah came up with the idea that made the difference between life and death.
“The terrorists were violently banging the locked iron grills and even the slightest noise by the babies could have alerted the terrorists,” said Dr Archana Garud, chief medical
officer, who was on duty that night. “The ayah suggested that all mothers breastfeed their babies to hush them up.”
Garud said this brainwave saved the lives of patients as well as hospital staff.
The 501-bed state-run hospital for women and children usually has more than 250 patients. Last Wednesday, there were about 150. Though two watchmen and a relative of a patient were gunned down, the new mothers, their children, and the hospital staff who had taken refuge together were saved.
But one look at the sixth floor, where the terrorists first started firing, shows the horror that could have been unleashed if they had struck just one floor below. The place resembles a war zone with every wall pockmarked by bullets. Fortunately, there were no staffers or patients at the time as the floor houses a seminar hall, laparoscopy room, and laboratory.
The terrorists also went to the terrace, but much to the hospital’s relief they left the solar panels untouched. The panels are the only source of power for the neo-natal intensive care unit.
None of the patients could be reached for comments as nearly 70% got themselves discharged from the hospital the next day, many against medical advice. The others were discharged soon after