We live in one of the quaintest towns in Hyderabad, where life is slow and predictable and the only surprises we are accustomed to are guests who come over unannounced. On November 21st, however, all of that changed. As usual, I was housekeeping, cleaning and washing everything at my workplace when I got a frantic call from my neighbour. ‘The gas cylinder at your house has burst! You need to come right away.’
32-year-old Suresh will never know what his neighbour said next, more hurried details, perhaps? Or meaningless but well-intentioned comforting words. He had already rushed out of his workplace. All that he cared about was that his wife and three daughters were okay.
My daughter's’ screams is the first thing that registered in my mind. The blackened walls of our house, the heaps of ashes, the firemen, the ambulance’s whirring sound, all of that came much later. There was so much smoke that I couldn’t see anything clearly and I struggled to walk ahead as the rubble below me felt like it would collapse any second.
The firemen calmed him down whereas his neighbours filled him in on the details. His daughters were safe, thank God “But my wife? Where is my wife!”, he asked. Their hesitance to answer confirmed his worst fears and led him into an unending frenzy.
We had just come home from school and as usual she asked us what we wanted for food.
‘Ice cream!’, ‘Anda-bhurji’, ‘pet cat!’ Mumma smiled at the last answer given by my 4-year-old sister. All three of us knew that she would end up making whatever was in the fridge anyway but we always enjoyed this little exchange.
-10-year-old Dandiyata, Suresh’s oldest daughter
“It feels like I am still burning from the inside.”
After making their cute unreasonable demands, the little one went to the other room to change their school uniforms. Meanwhile, 27-year-old Veena was busy making lunch in the kitchen when her gas cylinder burst. Owing to her proximity to the cylinder Veena has sustained maximum damage and is currently on the ventilator in Continental Hospital in Hyderabad. With her body undergoing 30% thermal burns she required regular dressing to stop the peeling and deformation and heal her raw, charred skin.
So gut-wrenching and agonizing are her screams when the dressing is taken off to reveal her scorched skin, that Suresh doesn’t know whether to scream or cry in misery at his poor wife’s state of affairs.
My once chatty wife can barely talk now due to the burns in her mouth and jaw. Her first words in the hospital were about the safety of our daughters. I told her they were completely fine and waiting for her return. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that they had seen her brutally burnt body on the stretcher and were too scared to visit her in the hospital.
Their three girls are with Suresh’s brother right now impatiently waiting their mother’s arrival. Their 4-year-old daughter still hasn’t registered who the lady on that stretcher in the ambulance was. All she knows is that her Mumma doesn’t look that way.
The treatment that can keep her alive:
Veena has miraculously managed to survive the explosion but is in a critical condition as she is battling several afflictions together. She requires multiple surgeries including skin grafting and Tangential Excision. The prolonged smoke inhalation has deteriorated her ability to breathe. Her muscles are still healing and it will take days, perhaps months, before she can walk or carry out strenuous activity. Her surgeries, ICU care, dressing and post-operative care comes up to Rs. 25 Lakhs - an amount impossible for this humble family to gather.
I only earn Rs. 5000 per month as a housekeeper so we barely had any savings. In fact, we never even celebrated our birthdays. Veena was adamant that instead of spending on a celebration and gifts we can save a little something for our three girls when they grow up. All those years of careful savings were used up within the first hour of her hospitalization itself.
The family has taken a loan worth Rs. 7 Lakhs on 10% interest and are yet to pay that back. All their relatives came together and contributed, some even in coins and 10 rupee notes to help raise another Rs. 1 Lakh, 30,000. But each day in the ICU alone costs Rs. 60,000! Their funds and time, both are running out.
Mama (Suresh’s brother) gives us anda bhurji, ice cream, anything that we want to eat! And it’s yummy too! But we miss mumma and her home-cooked meals. She made the best food.
How You Can Help
So brutal was the cylinder explosion that Suresh’s three daughters can’t even recognize their own mother after it. The skin on her entire body has burnt, and her muscles are so raw that she can’t move let alone walk! She needs multiple surgeries including skin grafting and Tangential Excision if she is ever to go back to a normal life. Her surgeries, ICU care, dressing and post-operative care comes up to Rs. 25 Lakhs. Suresh’s biggest fear is their three daughters growing up motherless. He needs your help to stop from ever occurring. Please contribute.
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