Former colleagues of Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who was raped in 1973 by a ward boy at the KEM hospital and died last year after being semi-comatose for 42 years, on Wednesday observed her first death anniversary and took resolve to keep up their mission of nursing everyone.
“We will be getting Rs. 5 lakh from Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe’s legislator fund and with this amount we plan to start a library named after Aruna and also improve the gymnasium in the KEM hospital,” hospital Dean Dr. Avinash Supe said.
Senior nurse Anuradha Parade said, “We will remember Aruna by rededicating ourselves to our mission of nursing everyone, be it an unknown person from the street or someone we know.”
Aruna died at the age of 68 on May 18 last year at state-run King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital. She was suffering from pneumonia and was on ventilator support.
She was a junior nurse in her 20s at KEM hospital when she was brutally assaulted and raped in 1973 by ward boy Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki, whom she had scolded for stealing food meant for stray animals the hospital had adopted.
She had just finished her shift and was in the basement of the hospital changing before leaving for home when Valmiki sexually assaulted and then strangled her with a dog chain, cutting supply of oxygen to her brain.
She was found in the basement 11 hours later, blind and suffering from a severe brain stem injury.
Her attacker was freed after a seven-year jail sentence.
Left bedridden, Aruna spent more than four decades being cared for by a team of doctors and nurses at the KEM hospital. So thorough was the care that in all that time, Shanbaug did not get a single bed sore.
“Nurses would clean, feed, change her clothes, not mechanically. They would talk to her…while trying to clean her mouth, by chance she would bite a finger,” a nurse recalled.
Pinky Virani, who authored Aruna’s story, had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop force feeding of Aruna, to “allow her to die with dignity”.
In a landmark judgement in 2011, the Supreme Court rejected Virani’s petition but said life support could be legally removed for some terminally ill patients, in a ruling that allowed passive euthanasia for the first time.