x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Comatose Indian man cleared for flight home

The man, who has been in a coma for nine months, had his first flight cancelled due to an oxygen tank complication.

DUBAI // A man who has been in a coma for nine months will finally be able to fly home to India on Saturday after his journey was initially delayed.

Venkaiah Gangaram, 55, was to be flown to Hyrderabad on Monday but his trip was cancelled when Air India said it could not provide the required oxygen equipment in the aircraft.

Mr Gangaram has been in a coma since February, after he suffered brain haemorrhage at a worksite in Dubai.

Dr Suresh Menon, a specialist in internal medicine at Jebel Ali Hospital, said procedures for transporting a comatose patient were complicated.

"There is a separate form to be filled out, mentioning the requirement of an oxygen cylinder and whether a doctor or a nurse is accompanying the patient," he said. "Once that procedure is done airlines have to create space to put a stretcher."

He said most airlines had separate medical information sheets for stretcher passengers which had to be downloaded and completed by the attending physician. "Details like information on diagnosis and his medical condition must be filled in," he said.

The Air India website says stretcher cases are accepted only after clearance from Medical Services Department and must be determined by the Chief Medical Officer. "Carriage of a stretcher passenger is upon advance arrangement and subject to availability of space," the website says.

Mrs Uma Rani Padmanabhan, the Indian social worker who is accompanying the patient, said she is happy the matter has been resolved.

"After five days of delay he is all set to travel on Saturday to reach India. We are happy Air India has agreed to provide oxygen equipment for his travel. He will be admitted to a local hospital in Hyderabad for further treatment."

Mr Gangaram was working as a workshop fabricator when he collapsed at work. He has been in Rashid Hospital since.

He has two sons, a daughter and a wife in Hyderabad, but had been working for a construction company in Dubai for the past 22 years.

V Shiva Kumar, one of Mr Gangaram's sons, told The National his family was shattered when they learnt their father had fallen into coma.

"He was a big support to the family. We are not able to believe that he is in coma."

He said his father last visited India in 2010. "We used to eagerly await his return to Indian every three years. It is sad that we will now have to see him in a coma at the airport."

Mr Kumar said his father was being transferred to India because treating him in Dubai was too expensive.

"We are planning to borrow money to treat him in India," he said. "He used to earn Dh1,500 a month and took care of the family very well. We are a poor family."

The Indian consulate said they were aware of the situation and had been in touch with the airline to resolve the problem. Air India refused to comment.