The day her third son was born, her photographs were splashed on the front pages of newspapers across Kerala. She became an instant celebrity and a face of courage and determination. Because, her journey to the labour room was on a Navy helicopter from the terrace of her home at Kondotty in Kerala's Ernakulam district. Sajitha Jabeel was one of the pregnant women rescued by the naval team on August 17, 2018 after Kerala was devastated by the worst flood of the century.
One year later, on her son Subhaan's first birthday, another surprise floored her.
The rescue team, which airlifted her to the hospital, dropped in for the birthday bash unannounced. Commander Vijay Varma, who flew the chopper, and gynaecologist Thamanna Shenoy visited Sajitha and children on August 17, adding more joy to the celebrations.
“Son of flood, you became a chubby champ in one year,” Dr Shenoy said holding Subhaan in her arms.
For Dr Shenoy taking care of emergency childbirths is nothing new but this was special. “Though I had attended emergency cases before, this was the first time I took care of a pregnant woman who was airlifted to a hospital after being in advanced stage of labour pain for 14 hours. Anything could have happened to the mother and baby,” Dr Shenoy, who is from Mangaluru, said.
She has a Kerala connection also. She is married to Dr Laxman Shenoy from Ernakulam.
Talking about that day, the doctor recalled that she had attended to a flood victim who suffered an abortion in the morning. She had also performed a caesarean surgery on another woman who was shifted to the hospital from a nearby flood relief camp.
Then came Sajitha in the afternoon and she delivered the baby at 3:40pm on August 17, three days prior to the expected date. “I couldn't explain the joy I felt when we finally got little Subhaan in our hands. He has a special place in my heart,” the doctor said.
Everyone at the hospital, including the CEO Subhash Renjan, visited Sajitha and the baby on that day. It was Subhash who named the baby Subhaan (glorious).
Sajitha, now 26, hasn't yet recovered from the shock the 2018 August deluge left. Doctors had told her that the tentative delivery date was on August 20. On August 16, her house was submerged by the rising waters of Periyar river. The family took shelter on the terrace. By 10pm, she started having labour pain. Sajitha, two children and her parents spent almost 14 hours on the terrace even as heavy downpour continued.
Sajitha's parents rang up all the available helpline numbers and explained the gravity of the situation. Rescue boats couldn't reach their locality due to the heavy flow of water. The next day around 12:40pm Sajitha was airlifted to Sanjivani naval hospital at Willingdon Island, Kochi.
Sajitha said after seeing the deluge, she had been praying to god to delay her labour. Her earlier two deliveries were without any complication. The third one was like her worst fears came true.
Sajitha's husband Jabeel works at a mobile phone store. The couple's eldest son is Nayeem and the second one is Nuwaim.
After Sajitha left the hospital, Dr Shenoy used to call her to ask about her medical condition. Then both of them became good friends. They frequently call and inquire about each other's well being. Commander Vijay Varma also calls the family often.
Elder son's complaint
Even as Subhaan's getting all the attention, there was one complaint from his eldest brother Nayeem. When Vijay Varma held Subhaan in his hands, Nayeem pulled the Navy officer's uniform and whispered something in his ear. The crowd broke into laughter when Vijay Varma revealed the reason for Nayeem's grouse. His secret question was: “You did not allow Nuwaim and me to board the helicopter when you took our mother to hospital. When are you coming back to airlift both of us.”
Sajitha's locality wasn't affected by the floods this year.