NAGAPATTINAM/PUDUKKOTTAI: Hilst cyclone Gaja was all set to cause havoc and destruction across Tamil Nadu in November last year, the predicament of some women who were about to give birth, was wrought with tremendous challenges and danger. Here is an account of how they overcame the odds to become happy mothers!
Gajashri, who was literally born ‘in the eye of the storm’ on November 16 last year in Nagapattinam, was aptly named after the cyclone. The toddler is calm and yet to take her first walk. Luckily, Gajashri’s mother Manjula (21) was safely admitted at the Primary Health Centre at Thevur, prior to the cyclone as per the advice of relatives. The PHC was 2 km away from their village Therkalathur. However, when Manjula went into labour, power at the health centre suddenly went off as the cyclone made landfall.
With window glasses breaking, nearby trees coming crashing down and rainwater gushing into the health centre, it was a terrible ordeal for Manjula. She could endure the terrifying moments only with the support of her husband T Ramesh and parents. The duty doctor, with the help of a nurse, attended to her delivery with the flashlight of mobile phones. Luckily, a healthy baby girl was born and aptly named ‘Gajashri’.
After she was born, her parents wanted to lay a cement floor since the mud surface of their small hut would be cold for the baby. But since they are farm labourers, that has not been possible yet due to financial issues.
“We received the same relief money like others in the village. While others could spend that amount on repairing their houses, we had to spend the money for the baby’s care. Only with the little money left, we repaired our hut,” said Manjula. She added that the government could have given additional relief fund to the families of newborns then.
Pavishna’s parents, Palaniswamy and Saraswathi of Nathampannai village, are all set to celebrate their daughter’s first birthday, that falls on November 16. Palaniswamy is yet to see his daughter as he works abroad. He is scheduled to finally come home for the birthday celebration. Saraswathi developed labour pains at home when the cyclone was clocking a speed of about 120 kmph, knocking down power infrastructure and trees.
Recalling the unforgettable night, Chinaya, her father-in-law, who was with Saraswathi at that time, said, “My daughter-in-law started suffering from a lot of pain. I was hoping to see the winds subside but it took us more than 10 hours.”
The two roads from Nathampannai to Pudukkottai were blocked as several trees and electric poles fell.
“The pain was unbearable. Luckily, youngsters and relatives came to my rescue. They carried me along the agriculture fields and found an autorickshaw on the bypass road,”said Saraswathi.
“Through knee-high silt, the youngsters managed to carry me to the bypass road which was 1 km away. There, we got an autorickshaw and rushed to the hospital. My daughter Pavishna was born an hour later,” she added.
Saraswathi was able to inform her husband about their baby’s birth only after two days as there was no power or mobile network.
Chandran and Santhi, residents of Vadavalam panchayat, had to travel an arduous 8 km to reach the hospital.
“With the rain and winds lashing very hard, I started getting anxious, and then my labour pain started,” said Santhi, who gave birth to Gokul, at Pudukkottai on November 16. Recalling her experience, Santhi said, “Seven of my relatives decided to take me to the hospital after the ambulance service could not reach us. They lifted me on their shoulders in turns and walked to the hospital. After immense hurdles, we managed to reach the hospital and deliver the baby a few hours later.”
Pandiselvam and Bhuvaneshwari, residents of Rayappettai, were not as lucky.
A pregnant Bhuvaneshwari was at home, when a wall collapsed.
Even as she was bleeding with head injury, she went into labour. Nearby residents rushed her to the Pudukkottai GH for treatment. But doctors found the baby dead.
“I lost my baby, my house and everything around me was falling apart,” said a weeping Bhuvaneshwari. The couple is yet to receive any compensation.