Selfless 85-year-old COVID Patient Dies After Giving Hospital Bed to Younger Man

With exponentially increasing COVID cases in India, hundreds of ghastly tales and heart-rending stories of personal loss and death continue to flood from its citizens.

As health infrastructure continues to crumble under the mounting pressure, people are often left to make hard decisions. Services like ambulances are hard to come by and hospital beds have become increasingly sparse, forcing officials to take measures such as converting train cars into treatment rooms and using a dog crematorium for the corpses of people who have succumbed to the disease.

Among the heartbreak and entropy, however, one man's selfless actions have left people hailing him as a hero.

Narayan Dabhalkar, an 85-year-old COVID patient, reportedly sacrificed his bed after "seeing a woman pleading to get her 40-year-old husband admitted," Dabhalkar's family told the Times of India (TOI). Dabhalkar was receiving treatment in Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra, one of the five most affected states and the second most populated in India.

After volunteering his bed to the younger man, Dabhalkar returned home, where he died on Monday.

Dabhalkar first went to Nagpur Municipal Corporation's (NMC) Indira Gandhi Rughnalaya (IGR) on April 22, due to his oxygen levels constantly dipping. After spending a couple of hours in IGR, according to TOI, he opted for a discharge against medical advice (DAMA).

A senior official at IGR confirmed the records for TOI showing "a DAMA against Dabhalkar's name."

"Our entire family is down with COVID. On April 16, we got his samples tested and the results came on April 19. The treatment continued at home," said Dabhalkar's daughter Aasawari Kothiwan to TOI.

Kothiwan added that when his oxygen levels dipped on April 22, he was then rushed to IGR.

"We got a bed after great effort, but he was back home in a couple of hours, even doctors said he was in a critical state," she told TOI.

Another official at IGR told TOI that Dabhalkar was in the causality section, which has a limited capacity of five patients at one time and was being used to hold patients who could not yet be admitted to the official COVID ward.

The official at IGR told TOI that, "even leaving the casualty ward would have eased the pressure," making way for the next patient.

Kothiwan said that her father insisted he'd "prefer his last moments [be] with the family rather than at the hospital."

According to Kothiwan, her father insisted on giving up his bed after he heard about the younger man in need. "I have already lived my life," he told them "and would rather leave it to fate instead of blocking a bed for two to three days at the cost of a younger patient."

However, Daya Shankar Tiwari, Mayor of Nagpur, told local news TV9 Marathi that Dabhalkar inquired about getting a bed immediately at IGR prior to this death. Upon being told that the hospital was too crowded and that he would be admitted to the casualty ward first while waiting for a bed on the COVID ward, Dhabhalkar allegedly said, "If it is that crowded, I will go back."

"Why was he going and what was the reason, that he [Dabhalkar] didn't say," said Tiwari, translated from Marathi. "But from media reports, a different story is coming out, and to check for what's true and what's not, I have asked Doctor Hardas at IGR for CCTV footage of that day."

India shouldn’t feel pride in his actions. He was noble, but he didn’t have to sacrifice himself. Old shouldn’t mean disposable.

— Sumon Kar 🇬🇧🇮🇳🇪🇺 (@5K4R) April 28, 2021

Though many see his story as one of courage and sacrifice, many others also see it as a story of a government failing its citizens.

"India shouldn't feel pride in his actions. He was noble, but he didn't have to sacrifice himself. Old shouldn't mean disposable," commented one Twitter user.

Dabhalkar had been an employee of the Maharashtra government, in the department of statistics, and was an active member of the Indian right-wing volunteer organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

A second wave of COVID infections has devasted India in the past few months and, as per the data by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 200,000 people have died of coronavirus, with 2,978,709 active cases and 17,997,267 (18 Million approx.) total infections.

Heartbreaking stories similar to Dabhalkar's, unfortunately, aren't hard to come by in India's time of crisis. Just yesterday, another heartbreaking story gained traction on Twitter, telling of a son forced to carry his dead mother's body on a motorbike to be cremated due to a lack of available ambulances.

Sons Forced to Transport Dead Mom
Protesters (L) wearing protective suits and masks display placards laying on the street near the Election Commission office in Kolkata on April 7, 2021, during a demonstration demanding the halt of the ongoing state legislative election and campaign rallies amidst the rising number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY