CHENNAI: May 26, Wednesday: It was a night of panic and mayhem at the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children, located at the heart of the city. Like others, P Jayakumar, a 35-year-old theatre nurse at the hospital, was on night duty on that day, when suddenly a fire broke out there. The blaze quickly spread to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), that had over 35 new-borns there.
The father of two and a resident of Ponneri, Jayakumar was quick on his feet. “We have to cross the duty doctor’s room to get to the NICU, so I knew I had to put out the fire and do it quickly because dark smoke had already engulfed a major part of the corridor and babies may not be able to tolerate it,” he told Express.
He added, “I had already undergone fire safety training so I knew which class of fire extinguisher to be used to put out electrical fire. There weren’t many who could help me at this point because they weren’t trained.” The fire had presumably set out from an air conditioning unit at the doctor’s room. The room could not be accessed from the front because of the intense smoke. Jayakumar then decided to break open the back window to get access, and by the time help came, he had almost managed to put out the blaze.
“As soon as the fire was put out, I saw many people waiting at the entrance of the hallway to carry babies from the NICU. I felt a little lightheaded but I knew if I fainted there, they would run over me. So I managed to walk a little way and fainted at the hall,” he said. All the babies and mothers in the hospital escaped unhurt.
V Manimaran, another theatre nurse, who was there on the same night, said, “Jayakumar deserves full credit for preventing a major casualty. His blood pressure was really high when he passed out. It only stabilised at around 2 am the next morning.” Jayakumar, an asthmatic, spent five days at the ICU for smoke inhalation, and returned home on Tuesday evening. “I did what I would have done if my daughters had been there at the hospital,” he said.