26/11 was a unique emotional experience: Doctor

By Quaid Najmi, IANS
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MUMBAI - He is used to seeing blood and gore every day, but the mayhem wreaked by terrorists in Mumbai was “a unique emotional experience” to Keki Turel. The leading Mumbai medico even remembers the sequence of patients he operated upon one by one - and their words.

Turel practises at the famous Bombay Hospital, barely a few kilometres away from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel and the Oberoi Trident Hotel, which were among the targets of the terrorist attacks.

That night, he was working late, as usual, when suddenly there was a commotion at around 9.45 p.m.

“The initial buzz was some gangwar victims were being brought in for treatment. However, within an hour, scores of Indians and foreigners were rushed here, with various degrees of injuries,” Turel recalled to IANS.

The victims were immediately admitted to the intensive care units and, later when it was full, wherever beds were available.

The doctors quickly segregated patients based on the severity of their injuries. The medicos battled against all odds as patients poured in for three days and nights during the 60-hour battle with the 10 Pakistani terrorists who laid siege to south Mumbai between Nov 26-29, 2008. At least 166 people were killed.

“It was truly an overwhelming sight, something resembling a battlefront. People bleeding from everywhere, most were shot in their limbs, some on the head and face. One Japanese man was virtually holding his intestines in his hands,” he said.

The hospital had never encountered an emergency of this magnitude. Only a few doctors were available late at night, but patients were admitted continuously.

Soon resident doctors rushed there to cope with the flow.

“These young men and women were the true saviours,” Turel said.

Even the hospital management chipped in. All paperwork was waived off, and the hospital canteen distributed free food to patients and their relatives.

“Since hundreds of X-rays were required to be done, we decided to do a CT-scan, being quicker and more precise,” he said.

Turel remembers that some patients remained calm throughout, with some also managing to retain their sense of humour.

“For instance, one British victim showed me the various bullet marks on his arms and legs and remarked that the gunmen didn’t even know how to kill,” Turel smiled.

The first patient Turel treated was a middle-aged Norwegian named Aree Stromme.

Stromme was at Leopold Cafe - a popular tourist haunt - with his girlfriend when terrorists entered and fired indiscriminately. Stromme ducked under the table, but a bullet grazed his forehead. Three of his fingers were ripped, and were hanging by the skin when he was brought to the hospital.

Turel vividly remembers his next patient - a naval commando who was shot in the skull, paralysing him. “He remained conscious during the operation, but, of course, could not feel anything,” he said.

Just then, another brave commando was brought in with a bullet injury which went through his left eye, rendering him blind.

For the entire three days, Turel, like his colleagues, did not leave the hospital.

“As doctors, we were used to tackling complex problems, but this was a uniquely emotional experience for all of us. However, we managed. Of the 82 patients admitted, there were only three casualties,” Turel told IANS.

Stromme, in fact, has returned with his girlfriend two years after the attack. They met all the medicos at the hospital to express gratitude for not just being alive, but to thank the Bombay Hospital medicos for all they did to save their lives.

Turel said despite the barbaric deeds of the terrorists, the country has come together and joined hands to fight the terror menace effectively. He said, “India has shown the way to the whole world to take on this challenge of universal terrorism.”

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

Filed under: Terrorism

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