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Delhi: Hours before last rites, father looks at stillborn son only to find him breathing

This Father's Day will remain etched in Rohit Tandon's memory for life. The world fell apart for the 27-year-old on Sunday when maternity ward attendants at Safdarjung hospital told him that his wife Shanti had given birth to a stillborn baby.

Lost for words, Tandon quietly took the infant wrapped in a grayish blue plastic sheet from the hospital staff and sat down without emotion for the reality to sink in. Fighting tears, he called up his family and relatives to arrange for the last rites of the baby boy. While the mother stayed at the hospital for post-delivery recovery, the family members took the baby home.

It was at home when Rohit unfolded the sheet to take a last look at his 'lost' son, he felt signs of life in the frail body. \"My heart skipped a beat,\" Tandon told Mail Today. \"There were mixed reactions of shock, relief, joy and anger. How could a hospital so big and reputed take the life of a human child so callously? I shudder to think the consequences if I hadn't found the truth in time.\"


The hospital has accepted the error and initiated an internal inquiry into the incident.

\"We have set up an inquiry into the matter and appropriate action will be taken against whoever is found lax,\" Dr AK Rai, director, Safdarjung Hospital told Mail Today. \"As per our records, the patient was 24-week pregnant and delivered a baby boy of 460 grams on Sunday at around 5:30 am. As the baby was not making any movement in his body and didn't cry during the time of delivery, the nurses attending the mother declared the baby dead without informing the senior doctors and wrapped him in a plastic sheet,\" the director said.

Rai said nurses should have informed to the head of department before declaring a child dead. \"In this case, the baby made movements after four to five hours of his birth. For now, mother and her baby are under strict observation of doctors,\" Rai said. Even though the hospital staff was quick to react and immediately shifted the new born to the nursery under observation, the Tandon family has lodged a police complaint against the erring maternity staff for medical negligence.


Mother Shanti, a resident of Badarpur in South Delhi, told Mail Today, \"I was shattered after first knowing about the condition of my child. I went into a state of depression when my husband and relatives took away the baby for the funeral. It is God's grace that my husband wanted to see my baby's face for the last time and we found the truth.\" Shanti said she is relieved that the baby is alive and cannot wait it to be brought by her side.

Speaking to Mail Today for the second time, Rohit, a father of eight-year old son Ashwani and a six-year daughter Nandini, said he was out of his initial shock and anger, and felt ecstatic. \"This is the best Father's Day for me. God has sent my child back from heaven.\" \"My baby is doing well in the nursery under close watch of senior doctors and I no longer hold any grudge against anyone,\" said Rohit.

This is not the first incident when the hospital's gynecology ward has been in news for the wrong reasons. Last week, Mail Today had reported how the same department had exchanged the parents of two new-born. The hospital authorities took cognisance of the report and conducted a DNA test on the couple to set the records straight.

According to recent United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), India is home to 7,00,000 of the one million babies who died within 28 days of birth in South Asia in 2015. This accounts for 26 per cent of neonatal deaths in the world.

While efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality rates over the past few decades have had a striking impact, stillbirths and newborn deaths have over the same period missed out on the attention that they actually require. Neonatal mortality rates have reduced much less than post-neonatal deaths however.

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