When a 103-year-old Indian man defeated the coronavirus

Sukha Singh Chabbra of Maharashtra is ranked as India’s oldest ICU survivor of COVID-19. QUAID NAJMI reports

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Sukha Singh Chhabra
Sukha Singh Chhabra receiving a warm send-off from the hospital upon recovery.

In a huge relief for his anxious family, a sprightly 103-year old Sikh man has vanquished the coronavirus and returned home to savour the victory.

Now ranked as India’s oldest ICU survivor of Covid-19, Sukha Singh Chhabra of Thane was happily discharged from Kaushalya Medical Foundation Trust Hospital (KMFT) this week.

His younger brother, 86-year old Tara Singh who was also infected, is awaiting discharge from the hospital in a couple of days.

For nearly a month, Chhabra’s entire family was on tenterhooks although he remained largely unaware of the potentially deadly infection that had afflicted him.

“We downplayed it and requested him to get admitted to a hospital for proper care,” his 39-year grandson Gurdeep K. Chhabra explained. “He agreed without any fuss, so we didn’t see any point in unnecessarily alarming him at his advanced age.”

After his swabs tested positive, he was wheeled into the KMFT Hospital on 2 June. His sons and grandchildren prayed, while his young great-grandchildren waited for him to return home to play with them.

Chhabra’s brother Tara Singh had come to visit the family briefly and lived with his elder brother, and hence got infected. He was admitted to the same hospital and spent days in the ICU.

Chhabra’s month-long stay in hospital was mostly lonely and without the hustle-bustle of his large family due to the Covid-19 protocols. Still, the senior Lahore (Pakistan)-born man braved it remarkably well.

“He was twice in and out of the intensive care unit, required non-invasive ventilation, inotropic supports to maintain his heart and lung functions for moderate Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, along with Covid Pneumonia,” said Amit Lala Khomane, Head of Critical Care Medicine at the hospital. “He had a very tricky course, going uphill and coming downhill.”

His recovery was a a huge relief for his anxious family.

A special team of doctors was assigned to treat Chhabra on the long road to recovery. However, they generously acknowledged that “it was the patient’s own determination to fight out Covid-19 at this advanced age” which was very important.

“We as doctors left no stone unturned to keep him and our other patients, to win this battle,” said a doctor.

Marvelling at Chhabra’s “miraculous recovery”, the KMFT Trustees Amol Bhanushali and Sameep Sohoni decided to waive off the treatment costs for Chhabra.

After he was accorded a warm send-off with a resounding round of applause, the weary Chhabra returned to the comfort and safety of his home.

“Before lockdown, he was very active as usual. He even visited the Gurudwara Shri Dashmesh Darbar, climbed the stairs independently, prayed, took ‘prasad’ at the langar and returned home,” said Gurmukh Singh, President of the Gurudwara and Shiv Sena Municipal Corporator from Thane.

Despite the recovery, Chhabra remains quite weak and will be on an intravenous semi-liquid diet for the next few days at his bungalow.

“We are confident that he will soon bounce back to his active self after he starts savouring his favourite Punjabi vegetarian dishes that he has missed for so many weeks now,” his grandson Gurdeep laughed.

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