A cancer-stricken woman’s dying wish to satisfy her two children in India was fulfilled by a Singapore medical team that pulled out all the stops and arranged her travel from a hospital here to Tiruchirappalli at the peak of the pandemic, consistent with a media report on Monday.
Ramamoorthy Rajeswari, a Singapore permanent resident, affected by throat cancer, wanted to satisfy her two children- aged 12 and nine- who were dispatched to their home near Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) in Tamil Nadu in January 2019 to be taken care by their relatives after her cancer progressed, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported in an interview together with her husband Rajagopalan Kolanchimani.
On Jun 27, 2020, about fortnight after the couple arrived in India, Rajeswari died. She was 44. “She said if she doesn’t see her children, she won’t leave the planet , she is going to stay,” Kolanchimani said. “She was so happy (on seeing the children). She wrote that she is okay, that she would be back and that we could live together again,” he said, adding that she was unable to talk but communicated with them using an app. Rajeswari was taken to a hospital so that her condition could be stabilised on arriving at Trichy. The hospital was arranged by her medical team at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Singapore through the Asia Pacific Palliative Care Network. “I didn’t believe it would happen. They told us that we could go on June 10, a day before that, but we didn’t believe it at all. Because the COVID-19 situation was bad, then was hers,” said Kolanchimani. Rajeswari was discharged a couple of days later to form her final journey home, about 50-km faraway from Trichy.
“Suddenly, she lost consciousness … once I checked, she had no pulse. The doctors had advised to not resuscitate her,” he said.
She had already defied her doctors’ assessment on how long she had to live. There was no guarantee she would even make it to India – cancer had wrecked her body and it had been beginning to fail, he said. “From a medical perspective, we didn’t think that it was going to happen,” said Dr Tricia Yung, one of Rajeswari’s palliative doctors from TTSH. She suffered a couple of near-death episodes where she bled profusely, her oxygen level plummeted and she or he lost consciousness.
“She was holding on to her phone all the time. She was watching the photographs of the youngsters , family back range in India,” said Dr Yung, an associate consultant. An operation to treat her throat cancer had removed her ability to talk . But it had been obvious to the medical team that Rajeswari “really, really missed home” which going back to India was her last wish, the doctor said. Dr Yung said that the team felt “compelled” to fulfil Rajeswari’s last wish because they were “touched by her determination and love”.
Rajeswari’s health was not the only obstacle. The COVID-19 pandemic had taken hold in India and tens of thousands of latest cases were sweeping across the country. Flights from Singapore to India were few and far between. With the assistance from Air India, Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approval for Rajeswari to fly was granted just four hours before the flight departed.
Senior officials within the palliative care department personally went right down to the airline’s office to elucidate Rajeswari’s situation and medical condition. They turned to the ministry of foreign affairs 24 hours after they didn’t receive clearance.
“The clearance and confirmations came only four hours before the actual flight, so it was such a challenging and adrenaline-rushed 48 hours,” said Dr Yung.
“We quickly gave her transfusion , topped up her oxygen and made sure that each one her wounds were nicely packed,” Dr Yung said.
They taught Rajeswari’s caregivers, her husband and her sister, what to try to to if she had a medical emergency on the flight. Since the flight was fully booked, other passengers gave up their seats to accommodate Rajeswari, her husband and her sister.
Kolanchimani said he’s grateful to the doctors who worked tirelessly to form the trip possible