Major Akshay Girish – Son, Hero, Martyr
His Story; My Way
If a million questions were thrown at me for a mammoth memory test today, I would get the perfect score, so long as the subject is ‘Akshay Girish’.
I know my post said Akshay’s story would start with his birth but as I get down to writing this, my thoughts take me further down memory lane- to the time I was pregnant with our first child. It was 1985 and Girish and I were in Gorakhpur – a fairly large, typically backward Uttar Pradesh town bordering Nepal, and also an IAF base for new fighter squadrons.
The pregnancy had been a difficult one from day one. In my 6th month, after I was very ill with an un-diagnosed fever for over a month, haemoglobin had dropped to 6 gm and foetal heart was weak. The doctors, Girish and my parents had me shifted from Gorakhpur to Bangalore for further investigations and treatment. At the Command Hospital in Bangalore, I started responding well to antibiotics. An ultrasound in my third trimester shocked us. I was carrying twins – something I didn’t know for 7 months! The Gynecologist patiently explained to me that I had to be immediately hospitalized for the reminder of my pregnancy because of PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension) and possible foetal distress. Inadequate blood supply was affecting the growth of one baby more than the other.
I had the best round-the-clock care in the Command hospital with foetal heart being monitored every 4 hours. When Dr. Dey told me that waiting for the full term would endanger the life of my baby, I asked no questions and reposed my complete trust in his judgement. He decided to terminate the pregnancy at 35 weeks and Neha and Akshay were safely delivered via a C Section on 6th Dec 1985 at around 8am.
Having arrived a month early, both were low birth weight. However, the pediatrician designated Akshay (at just 1.7Kg) a ‘high-risk’ baby. Not only did he take long to cry at birth, he had no suck-and-swallow reflex, very red and delicate skin that kept peeling for weeks, barely any flesh covering his ribcage with extended gaps between the bones of his skull plates (fontanels’ –both anterior and posterior). Since he couldn’t be breastfed, the nurses used a nasal tube to feed Akshay while in hospital. By the time the three of us were finally allowed to leave for my parents home, I had spent 40 days in hospital. The nurses had taught me the art of expressing breast milk into a bottle fitted with a large-holed nipple. It took an hour to make sure that Akshay swallowed the 2 ounces of milk that slowly dropped into his mouth.
No one in the family had seen a baby as tiny as Akshay raja. He would be warmly bundled up and placed on the bed where he lay quietly for hours, his huge eyes mostly glued to the ceiling. He didn’t respond to us with baby noises, or smile to himself the way his twin did. He didn’t cry for milk and when we force-fed him, his regular diarrhea got worse because the digestive tract was so delicate. In 40 days, he hadn’t gained any weight and my mother, seeing me very distressed after the Pediatrician hinted at ‘developmental problems’, tuned in to Lord Balaji for Akshay’s well-being.
We also consulted a second Pediatrician at St. John’s Hospital. He, after stripping off every shred of cloth covering our skin and bone infant, took his time for a thorough examination and reassured us that Akshay was a normal infant. He gave me simple tips on how to feed and care for a low-birth weight and pre-term baby and told me to rely on my parental instincts when in doubt. He was like a Godsend and we were all very grateful for his calm reassurances.
Over the next two weeks, Akshay turned the corner and in just another month, our quiet little ‘Vivekananda-like’ baby metamorphosed into a noisy, attention loving, wanting-to-be- constantly-carried and spoken-to kind of infant. He was yelling for his milk, sucking hard at the bottle and gaining weight. Although his developmental milestones (turning over, sitting and crawling) were rather delayed in comparison with Neha, he became very playful and finally looked as cute as she did!
Just as our family began to relax and enjoy the twins as they reached out to each other and played in delightful-to-watch ways, Akshay, became ill with high fever and respiratory problems. He was diagnosed with broncho-pneumonia at five and half months and we were told his immune system was weak. Fortunately, he responded well to antibiotics and by 7 and half months, he was crawling around, following his sister and trying his best to catch up with her.
Akshay had started showing us his ‘I never-give-up’ fighting qualities.