Every year on June 1, as Aruna Shanbaug lies on the bed of her special hospital room (ward number 4), the staff at KEM hospital -- including nurses, doctors and even the dean of the hospital -- celebrates her birthday.
Yesterday, on her 65th birthday, the staff members brought two cakes -- one from the nurses and the other from the dean, Sandhya Kamath. While the dean distributed chocolates, others present for the celebration brought Shanbaug essential things in the form of gifts. She was made to wear a new gown and her room was decorated for the occasion.
Shanbaug was born in Haldipur, Karnataka. As a young nurse at KEM hospital on November 27, 1973, she had been sodomised by a ward boy, who even tried to choke her throat with a chain. She has been in a vegetative state ever since.
A nurse at the hospital, on condition of anonymity, said, “She is an important family member and we take care of her just like our child. She is fed with the help of a naso-gastric tube every four hours. She makes particular sounds if she needs something. We ensure that she is comfortable.”
Speaking to SUNDAY MiD DAY, Arundhati Velhal, matron of the hospital, said, “Although Aruna is not aware of her surroundings, she recognises the presence of people around her and expresses that by making certain types of vocal sounds. She appears to be happy and smiles sometimes when she is able to sense us.”
“I have been serving Aruna since 1978. We are all extremely attached to her. Ever since her family members have abandoned her, we are her only family. She is a woman with a strong heart, not everyone can bear the pain she is going through and I salute her for her courage. We were, are and will always be there for her. This is why we are against the mercy killing of her,” added Velhal.