Lost in Bhandara hospital fire, the life of a 3-day-old girl, and a landless labourer couple’s last hope of parenthood

For Hiralal Bhanarkar and his wife Hirkanya — both landless labourers — the fire incident at Bhandara District Hospital on Saturday not only snuffed the life out of their first live baby, born after four stillbirths, but also put an end to their quest to become parents.

For Hiralal Bhanarkar, 42, and his wife Hirkanya, 39 — both landless labourers from Uchgaon village in Sakoli tahsil of Bhandaran district — the fire incident at Bhandara District Hospital on Saturday not only snuffed the life out of their first live baby, born after four stillbirths, but also put an end to their quest to become parents.

“After our marriage in 2006, my wife conceived for the first time after three years, but she had a premature delivery after six months with the baby, a girl, arriving dead. Two years later, a premature boy was born dead after six months of pregnancy. In 2014, another baby, a girl again, also arrived dead after seven months of pregnancy. And yet another girl child was born dead two years later, after full nine months of pregnancy,” said Hiralal.

The couple then approached a private doctor at Lakhni, a tahsil town in the district, who started treating Hirkanya to ensure a safe delivery. But this time too, a baby girl was born prematurely after seven months. Underweight at just one kg, she was rushed to the Bhandara District Hospital and admitted to the sick neo-natal care unit (SNCU) the same day, on January 6. The Bhanarkars’ dreams of parenthood, however, came to a tragic end on January 9.

A fire at the hospital claimed the lives of 10 newborns, including their daughter, in the SNCU.

“You won’t be able to imagine how it feels. Our world has come crashing down. Despite living a hand-to-mouth existence, I worked day and night to collect money required for my wife’s treatment… and spent about Rs 30,000. All that is now in vain,” Hiralal said.

Hirkanya has been admitted at the primary health centre in Ekodi for treatment of trauma. The Maharashtra government has given the couple a cheque for Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the tragedy.

But the Bhanarkars have decided not to try for a child again.

“The doctor said my wife will face a risk to her life if we try for a child again. So, we have decided not to pursue it further,” said Hiralal.

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