“I asked Rasin’s mother if I could perform the final rites as per Hindu religious beliefs. She said yes. I carried the pall to the crematorium and lit the pyre and performed the rituals,”. These are the words of Dr.Gopakumar from Kerala. It’s been not so long since we heard news about the death of a nurse who lost her life to Nipah virus while treating patients. Now again, a medical professional is doing selfless service for the Nipah victims. There is only one word to describe their actions. Humanity.
Despite the panic-stricken calls from his wife to take care of his health, Dr. R.S.Gopakumar is fearless to help the victims of the deadly virus, Nipah. A Health officer from Kozhikode Corporation, he carries the coffins of the Nipah victims and lights up their pyre when in need. Most of the relatives of victims refuse to do their final rituals in fear.
When Rasin, a 25-year-old youth surrendered to the virus, his father was no more and mother was in the isolation ward of the hospital with suspected symptoms. When no one was there to light his pyre, Dr.R.S.Gopakumar approached his mother and asked If he could perform her son’s final rites. The woman, who was unable to see her son’s face for one last time, nodded yes with utmost grief. Dr.Gopakumar carried the pall to the crematorium and lit the pyre and performed the rites as per Hindu rituals.
A day before Rasin’s death, Dr. Gopakumar helped the relatives of Abin, 26, to perform the last rites, who too lost his life to the virus. Not only does he helped these two, but also he helped some others who passed away of suspected infection. With the permission of her husband, Dr.Gopakumar carried Sabeerath’s body to the burial ground since she doesn’t have any other relatives. Also, when Raghu, 53 succumbed to the deadly virus, his relatives refused to perform the rituals by wearing the Personal Protective Equipment(PPE).
“After my efforts to convince them about the need to wear the equipment failed, I carried the coffin myself with the help of some social activists and lit the pyre,” he said.
When it comes to an epidemic, even crematorium staffs refuse to perform the last rites in fear. Rajan’s body was kept in an ambulance since a corporation crematorium refused to do his final rites. The staffs of Ivor Madhom, a crematorium in the banks of Bharathapuzha, Thrissur helped Dr.Gopakumar in such cases.
The protocol prepared by an expert team from the National Centre for Disease Control was followed during the cremation and burial as exposure to the virus can be fatal. When the body of V.Moosa, whose two sons too died of the infection, was taken for the last rites, Reema Sahay, the scientist from the National Institute of Virology, was present at the Kannamparambu burial ground. There was an officer in the team Dr.Sahay, who was trained in handling Ebola victims. Dr.Gopakumar says that his directions that those handling the body were supposed to wear personal protective equipment were helpful while dealing with the victims.
As per the protocols, a 10-feet pit needs to be dug and 5 kg of bleaching powder should be poured into the pit. The body will be packed in an air-tight plastic double body bag and then lowered into the pit. As part of the standard procedures, the bodies are not supposed to be sprayed, washed or embalmed and personnel handling remains have to wear protective equipment like gloves, gowns, N95 masks, eye protection shield and shoe cover.
Dr.R.S.Gopakumar is one of the real examples of a true, selfless “Human Being”.