For nearly a month, 33-year-old Jikmet Wangdus and his brother-in-law have been going to the Delhi international airport daily to collect a box flown all the way from Leh. Except, the package is not an ordinary one.
The box has seven small containers inside, each carrying the precious breast milk of Wangdus’ wife for their newborn, who underwent a complex life-saving surgery recently at a private hospital here.
The boy was born through a C-section on June 16 at Sonam Nurboo Memorial Hospital in Leh and 30-year-old Dorjey Palmo found out that her baby was unable to suckle when she tried to feed him.
“I was in Mysore when my family in Leh contacted me and my Guruji’s family members, who are doctors, suggested sending the baby immediately to Delhi or Chandigarh at a bigger hospital. So, my wife’s brother, Jigmat Gyalpo, took a flight from Leh and brought my child to Delhi on June 18 morning,” Wangdus said.
Wangdus, who works as a manager in a educational institution in Mysore, took a flight too and reached early morning on the same day. Leh and Delhi are 1000-km apart by road and a direct flight takes one hour and 15 minutes.
“I only once took my child in my hands when he was two days old. I didn’t touch him much because I had travelled from Karnataka and there was so much COVID scare. My brother-in-law carried him,” he said.
Upon landing at the Delhi airport, the baby was rushed by his father and uncle to the Max hospital, Shalimar Bagh in an ambulance and was admitted to its NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), hospital authorities said.
At Max hospital, Dr Harshwardhan, Principal Consultant, Paediatric Department, diagnosed the baby with tracheoesophageal fistula with esophageal atresia, which he said, is not very uncommon, but affects about “three in every thousand children”.
Basically, in this condition, the child’s food pipe and trachea were connected, and it was unable to feed. When the child was brought to our nursery, the baby also had a respiratory infection “so we had to stabilise him first,” he said.
“We conducted the surgery, lasting about three hours, the next day and it was a complex surgery, considering the baby was just four-days-old. But, the surgery was successful,” he said.
The doctor said the baby was kept in NICU for three days and fed through nose via a tube, when he suggested the father about the need of mother’s milk.
Wangdus said his friends at Leh airport, a very generous private airline which ferried the box free of cost every day, and “good-hearted passengers” helped the family in getting a daily supply of the mother’s milk from Leh to Delhi to fortify the baby who was recovering from the surgery.
“My wife was unable to travel to Delhi due to the coronavierus scare and therefore we had to manage in this manner,” he said.
“From end of June, this has been our routine, and on alternate days, I and my brother-in-law, go to Delhi’s T3 terminal and wait eagerly for the box, which have our contact numbers on it,” he said.
“Today, my brother-in-law collected it, and my wife will keep sending the milk till our last day in Delhi,” the father said.
Each box has seven containers, of 60 ml capacity each, and every day the boxes are also returned to Leh for refill the next day, Wangdus added.
An emotionally overwhelmed father, said, his gurus in Bangalore were sending blessings every day for his well-being and “so many good souls have helped us through this journey in this difficult time.
“Two days ago, my Guruji named my child Rigzin Wangchuk. Our flight tickets are booked for Friday, and we all will be going home finally,” he said.
Wangdus said the baby’s mother, who works in the Revenue Department in Leh, is on maternity leave and eagerly waiting to hold her child back in her arms.
“Every day, she was sending not just her milk for the newborn, which is needed for his healthy growth, but also her love for her child, from 1000 km away. I am happy, my baby is alright now,” he said.
Max hospital, Shalimar Bagh is a dedicated COVID-19 facility and Dr Harshvardhan said, the baby was brought to the nursery section of the hospital which has no coronavirus cases.
“Post-surgery, we also ran a COVID test on the baby just to be sure, and it came negative. We are very happy that the healthy baby will now be reunited with her mother on Friday,” he said.