'If an Oxygen Cylinder Comes, Hang on to it Like Betal': Comedian's Ordeal Resonates on Social Media

What followed after Prashasti Singh's mother tested COVID-19 positive in Lucknow is a familiar but harrowing succession of events.

New Delhi: Amidst what is turning out to be the most challenging phase in India’s attempts to tackle the coronavirus, comedian Prashasti Singh, in a multi-part Instagram post, has essayed her ordeal since her mother tested COVID-19 positive.

The post has been interacted with more than 2 lakh times and has been widely shared on social media as an apt picture of how brutal the process of securing treatment for COVID-19 patients is, right now.

Singh’s mother tested positive last weekend, she writes in the post, uploaded early on April 18.

As Singh travelled from Lucknow airport to her house, the Uber driver allegedly told her that he had been getting requests to transport dead bodies in his car as hearse cars are outnumbered by demand.

Uttar Pradesh on Saturday reported 120 deaths, its largest one-day toll from the pandemic pushing the fatality count to 9,703, while 27,357 fresh COVID-19 cases raised the infection tally to 8,21,054. Lucknow accounted for 5,913 of the fresh COVID-19 cases, with 36 new deaths, according to official records.

Also read: What Has Living a Year With SARS-CoV-2 Taught Us?

On Wednesday, April 14, Singh’s mother was admitted to the hospital for low oxygen levels. First, a doctor who was colleague of her late father warned them that the situation was touch and go unless they found a bed at a hospital – a difficult thing to get.

Singh admits that she “pulled all strings” to get her mother admitted to a hospital, only to discover that it is under-equipped to handle the sheer number of patients. “No one can survive this system without a member of their family volunteering to embrace covid with them,” she writes.

Singh writes that she searched for an oxygen cylinder for 12 hours and spent the next 12 hours kept calling the hospital management to get things done. Finally, a boy told her that she needed to pay all the ward boys Rs 50 to Rs 100 and “when a cylinder comes, hang on to it like Betal.”

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, chairing a virtual review meeting on Saturday, had said every hospital should have an oxygen backup of 36 hours and that 10 new oxygen plants will be established to improve supply.

Empty oxygen cylinders is being refilled, to be transported to hospitals for Covid-19 patients, amid the rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, in Lucknow, Thursday, April 15, 2021. Photo: PTI

Singh writes that many refused cash while some only accepted small money and that all were stretched “way beyond capacity.”

By the night of April 16, the oxygen shortage grew dire, she writes, and running around, pleading and fighting become the mainstay. “Between arguments I wonder if someone needs oxygen more critically than we do, and then quickly snap back,” she writes, noting that this is a line of thought she cannot afford to follow as she tries to get the best for her mother.

Singh also notes that while arranging for another cylinder, she notices an old woman trying to arrange for a cylinder for her husband.

“How will she grab and run? She will figure something out maybe. Someone in the ward next to me is howling. I am trying to distract myself with Instagram,” she finishes.


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