In a bid to dispel rumours surrounding Jayalalithaa’s health, Dr. Richard Beale, the U.K.-based intensivist, who was treating the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, on Monday, addressed a press conference in Chennai. He was accompanied by Dr. Balaji, a government doctor, Dr. Babu Abraham, Critical Care Consultant, Apollo Hospitals and Dr. Sudha Seshaiyyan, who performed embalming on Jayalalithaa’s body.
Jayalalithaa had come to hospital with sepsis and was conscious, Dr. Beale told reporters adding that she had co-morbidities and uncontrolled diabetes.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection injures its own tissues and organs.
“Sepsis can come on quickly and have severe consequences,” the doctors said. When Jayalalithaa came to hospital, she was treated with non-invasive ventilation — mask to the face. She got better, doctors said.
She was then put on ventilator as her sepsis got worse progressively. “Once she was in a ventilator we had to give her sleeping medicines and wasn’t able to communicate. But when she was awake, she would communicate with signs,” Dr Babu said. He also said she was responding with sign language and lip reading once she got a trachaeostomy.”
“As far as I’m aware she became short of breath quite rapidly,” Dr. Richard Beale said. To a question, he replied “she could have come earlier.”
Dr. Beale said “We talked about many things — what she likes to watch on TV, rehab, etc. She couldn’t speak clearly, but she could mouth, I could understand very well, she was cooperating really well.”
Dr. Babu Abraham gave a timeline on Jayalalithaa’s health condition. He said “On September 22, Jayalalithaa was admitted at 10.30 p.m. and immediately given critical and supportive care.” She was short of breath at home and the ambulance was called. He further said at that time, diagnosis was “respiratory failure due to infection.”
On asked if Jayalalithaa spoke with anyone else, Dr. Babu said she would speak with Sasikala. “But she was not the only one,” he responded. The then CM would be asked if she’d like to meet people and only then allowed them, he said.
He also said there were briefings on a daily basis, mostly at the Chairman’s Office, where Ms. Sasikala, the Chief Secretary, Health Secretary, and ministers were given updates.
Embalming, a routine procedure
Dr. Sudha Seshaiyyan, who performed embalming, said “Usually in a VIP death, body will be in state, with our climatic conditions too, it’s possible to contaminate the body. So we embalmed her, just as we did for MGR.”
Embalming was done at midnight 12-20 it started, went on for 15 minutes, Dr. Seshaiyyan, who is also the Director of Anantomy, said.
Dr. Beale categorically rejected the claims of amputation. There was no amputation and no transplantation either,” he said.
When questioned about three dots found on Jayalalithaa’s face, Dr. Seshaiyyan said, she was not aware of it at the time of embalming.
Those dots were not that deep, Dr. Seshaiyyan said. Her lips were thick, but that was as a result of tracheostomy.
On flying her to London
The issue of transferring her to London was discussed at length, said Dr. Beale. “Is there something that can be given where you are going to that was not available already,” he remarked.
In the early phase, the risk benefit balance did not justify a journey of that length. Later it emerged that she did not want to move. It became a matter of her choice, he added.
Jayalalithaa’s last hours
Dr. Babu revealed her last hours: “She had cardiac arrest at about 5 pm. It was a witnessed cardiac arrest. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was started immediately. CPR went on for 20 minutes. We did not get a heart rhythm. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team was immediately informed. They came down immediately. We needed to give the patient time of about 24 hours after being put on ECMO.
“Twenty-four hours later, it was just the machine that was working. Her heart was not yet beating. So we conveyed this to family and decision was taken to switch off ECMO.”
A Medical decision was taken as we felt it was futile. We conveyed to family, ministers and seniors in the hospital, the doctors said.
Dr. Babu said Jayalalithaa was speaking till the time she suffered cardiac arrest. She said she was feeling breathless.
Why wasn’t she photographed?
When asked why her photographs were not released, Dr. Beale’s reply was: “You don’t take pictures of critically ill patients. We just don’t do that.”
Dr. Beale was not in Chennai when Jayalalithaa breathed her last. “I couldn’t get to Chennai,but participated remotely,” he said.
“I released a statement because a lot of people were approaching me,” Dr Beale said adding that everything that could be done was done at Apollo and “was done exceptionally well.”
The cost of hospitalisation and treatment was between Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 5.5 crore. “We have handed over the bill to her family,” Dr. Balaji said but however did not reply if the bill was settled.