'I was on duty when VS was arrested': Former Kerala CM's wife recalls her nursing career

International Nurses Day | VS’ wife Vasumathy recounts her service days
(L) K Vasumathy. (R) Vasumathy during a demonstration in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram organized by the Kerala Government Nurses Association.

(Editor's note: This is a memoir of K Vasumathy, wife of former Kerala Chief Minister and veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader V S Achuthanandan, who worked as a nurse in government hospitals for three decades. Vasumathy's son V A Arunkumar prepared this piece.)

Of the thousands of patients I took care of in my 30 years of nursing career, I still remember the face of a Congress worker who was brought to the emergency care unit of the Government Medical College Hospital in Alappuzha with life-threatening stab injuries.

His body was full of deep wounds. His intestine was exposed. Dirt covered all the wounds. He was stabbed by his political rivals.

The moment he arrived at the hospital, I cleaned up his wounds and took him to the operation theatre.

The surgery was hugely successful. With proper post-surgical care, he could return home hale and hearty soon.

On the day he left hospital, he came to me to say thanks, but he sounded a little apologetic.

"I am sorry sister, I misunderstood you," he told me.

When I asked him what he meant, he replied, "The doctor told me about how you took care of me diligently. You toiled hard to save my life. I needlessly suspected you," he said.

He suspected that being a Communist, I would not give him proper care.

I listened to the Congress worker and replied: “I just did my duty.”

A wedding invitation

Another memorable instance was when a youth came to invite me for his wedding, along with his mother.

Pointing to her son, the mother asked me, "Do you remember this boy?”

“No,” I replied.

“This is the child you had saved. He is getting married. You should come to his wedding and bless him."

Then the mother told me the story.

Many years ago, she had brought him with acute breathing illness to the woman and child hospital at Alappuzha. It was initial years of my service. Everyone was worried about the boy's health. I took care of him for three days. Finally, he survived. Even Dr Uthaman, who treated the boy, lauded my efforts.

Emergency and VS' arrest

Those were the days when nurses worked for more than 10 hours a day.

Our normal duty started at 7:30am and went on till 6pm. Apart from this, we were assigned continuous night shifts and I struggled hard to balance my professional and family responsibilities.

The declaration of Emergency gave me more troubles with the arrest of VS.

I was on night duty when police arrested VS from our home. Our two children, aged five and seven, were sleeping when the police took him. He came back only after 20 months. Till then, my life was confined to my job and two children.

I was also actively involved in the agitations of the nurses' outfits, seeking better pay scales and service conditions.

It has been 28 years since I retired from service. Those days were really hard.

I am feeling proud when I see the respect and gratitude nurses get for their efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. I whole-heartedly salute all the nurses who are in the forefront of this battle, keeping aside their personal problems.

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