‘Salim, C/O Surabhi Mohan': Kerala nurse ensures dignified end for man 5 months after death

When Salim passed away in January and his body remained unclaimed for five months, Surabhi came forward and gave him a dignified farewell. Her reason for doing it: Duty.
Surabhi Mohan
Surabhi MohanPhoto | Special Arrangement

KOLLAM: Surabhi Mohan, 53, had not known Salim, 54, for long. The Kollam District Hospital, where Surabhi is a senior staff nurse, and where Salim was admitted last December, was the sole link between them.

Yet, when Salim passed away in January and his body remained unclaimed for five months, Surabhi came forward and gave him a dignified farewell. Her reason for doing it: Duty.

Salim was admitted to the hospital on December 12, 2023, with respiratory issues. After three weeks in the ICU, he passed away in January. The body was shifted to the mortuary, where it lay for months with none coming forward to claim the mortal remains. On April 28, following a health department directive, arrangements were made to shift his body to the Kollam Medicity Hospital where it would be used for anatomical study. That’s when Surabhi stepped forward.

“On April 28, on receiving orders to shift Salim’s body, I felt a sense of duty towards him. Having cared for him in his final days, I couldn’t bear the thought of him departing to anonymity,” Surabhi told TNIE.

‘It was my duty as nurse & fellow human being’

So, she offered her address to Salim before his transfer, ensuring he doesn’t depart without a semblance of connection or dignity.

“Following discussions with colleagues and obtaining permission from the police surgeon’s office, we arranged for Salim’s last rites on May 2. We affixed a note on the stretcher that said ‘Salim, C/O Surabhi Mohan, senior nursing officer at the district hospital’. It was simply my duty as a nurse and fellow human being,” said Surabhi, who was deployed to the mortuary ward in April.

Her father, who had suffered from shock, had initially been admitted to the same ICU ward as Salim in December. “His bed was next to Salim’s. I would visit the ICU to meet my father. Later, I started sharing my food with Salim, and that is how I got attached to him. Though he was shifted to another ICU ward later, I continued visiting him, bringing sustenance. Sadly, he passed away three weeks later,” said Surabhi, a resident of West Kallada, who has been working at the Kollam District Hospital since 2000. Her father is on the road to recovery.

Usual practice

In cases where individuals pass away and their bodies remain unclaimed in hospitals for long, protocols dictate that the hospital authorities promptly report the matter to the medical superintendent. Then, blood samples taken from the body are preserved for potential DNA identification in the event of claims in future. Then, the deceased person is either buried in the presence of the police and municipal representatives or the body is handed over to the hospital for studies.

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