Central General Hospital (RSUP) Dr. Sardjito Yogyakarta experienced a severe oxygen crisis on Saturday, July 3, 2021. A number of families of patients who died that night shared their stories with sadness and questions. They want this tragedy to not be repeated and happen to other families in the midst of a pandemic. Baryanto’s fate could be said to be unlucky, but at the same time he was also lucky. Out of luck because he tested positive for COVID-19. But he was also lucky because this status gave him the opportunity to accompany his mother, who also tested positive for COVID-19, in her last days at Dr. Sardjito Hospital Yogyakarta. Baryanto remembers well how the situation in the room where his mother was treated the night the oxygen crisis hit. At around 21.00 WIB, suddenly the High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) machine, which was used to treat her mother, made a loud sound. “After the mother’s machine sounded, after a few minutes, between 10-15 minutes, the other machines also experienced the same response, the sound too. Sounds that-thit-that-thit in the same vein. There are several because the sounds are intertwined, I can’t estimate how many there are,” said Baryanto. Mrs. Baryanto was one of 63 patients at RSUP Dr.Sardjito who died within a 24-hour period, between Saturday (3/7) morning to Sunday (4/7) morning. The hospital is experiencing an oxygen crisis and has been trying to fulfill its needs since June 29, 2021. The peak of the crisis occurred, according to the hospital’s official statement, due to a surge in patient arrivals on Friday (2/7). Of the 63 patients who died during that period, according to hospital data, 33 died after the central oxygen system shut down at 8 p.m. Saturday. However, the hospital director at the time argued that the deaths were not directly related to the oxygen crisis. The medical committee of Dr. Sardjito Hospital is currently working to investigate the case. Very Dependent on Oxygen Baryanto, a resident of Klaten, Central Java, initially took care of his mother at home. However, his oxygen saturation continued to drop to around 60 forcing him to seek a hospital in Yogyakarta. Some of the ones he visited were full, so he decided to go to Dr.Sardjito Hospital, which turned out to be experiencing an increasing trend of patient arrivals. When they arrived, there was only one tent in the ER yard, a day later two more tents were added. Initially, the mother was treated at the COVID-19 poly, Dr. Sardjito Hospital. As the saturation continued to drop, on Saturday 3 July, Baryanto asked his mother to be treated in the ER. The opportunity came around 17.00 WIB. He was grateful that finally his mother could be treated with an HFNC machine. The supply from the high-flow machine made the saturation rise, to close to 90. Only about five hours in the ER, problems arose. The sound of the HFNC machine on his mother’s bedside, was etched in his memory. “The first, if I’m not mistaken, the sound is the mother’s engine. I’m trying to confirm with the doctor. The doctor said, this sound machine is not a problem. After a few minutes, the doctor increased the oxygen supply, the first at 30 then increased to 50, if I’m not mistaken. But the engine keeps beeping. When it was raised, the information from the mechanical doctor was that there was interference from the center,” said Baryanto. Because HFNC could not function optimally, according to Baryanto, the doctor replaced his mother’s oxygen intake with a tube and wore an oxygen mask. Her mother’s saturation immediately dropped to 60, 50 and slowly dropped to 20. The doctor moved the patient to another room, but that didn’t help. The doctor explained to Baryanto that this condition would make his mother tired of breath, which could lead to respiratory arrest or heart failure. He finally lost his mother at around 01.00 WIB, Sunday (4/7), about four hours after the central oxygen supply at Dr. Sardjito Hospital died. At around 16.30, or fifteen hours later, Baryanto’s mother’s body could be brought home. He said his mother was at the queue number 48 that day at the morgue. It was only at noon that, thanks to information from a fellow patient’s family, and a doctor’s account, he learned that last night, while his mother was struggling to survive, the hospital had an oxygen crisis. The Surprise of the Patient’s and Doctor’s Families Another story was told by Johny, whose father-in-law tested positive for COVID-19. On June 25, the mother-in-law felt a fever, they did a PCR swab, blood check and X-ray at Dr. Hospital. Sardjito. There is a suspicion of COVID-19, but the test results will have to wait a few days from those who are isoman. The doctor also said he did not find any comorbidities. In the midst of the isoman, Johny’s in-laws’ saturation dropped to 80 on June 30, 2021. They decided to return to Sardjito. “During the check at Sardjito, saturation was 70, it was immediately recommended to go to the ER, to be handled there. By the doctor installed tools for oxygen supply. HFNC yes. Saturation returns to normal, it can be up to 90, 96 and even up to 99 at that time,” said Johny. So far, Johny’s mother-in-law has only had respiratory problems, she was declared to have no comorbidities. One day in the ER, he was then transferred to the GK 1 nation on July 1, 2021. “I coordinated with the doctor. His condition is good, there are no problems,” said Johnny. On Friday, Johny left a cell phone for his mother, Saturday morning the mother called asking for blankets. In the afternoon, said Johnny, his mother-in-law also called. The news from the doctor said his condition was still no problem, saturation 90 with HFNC installed. However, at 21.00, Johnny received news that his mother-in-law had died. Johnny immediately called the doctor who treated his mother-in-law. “I asked, sir, how is this my mother, how did I suddenly become innalillahi (died) like this. The doctor didn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. The doctor said no, sir, last afternoon I was there to check his condition, also not worrying, the saturation is still above 90, “Johny quoted the doctor as saying. Johnny did not understand about the oxygen crisis that was happening, that’s why he was surprised by the departure of his mother-in-law, as well as the doctor who treated him. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, July 4, that a friend of his called and informed him of what had happened. “At that time, my mother died in the 36th order from the hospital statement,” he added. He didn’t question any further. Johny only admitted, trying to relate everything that happened, related to the oxygen crisis and his mother’s death at 21.00, or about 1 hour after the central oxygen system shut down. “Is it because at eight o’clock the oxygen is running out? I do not know. But I correlated how come at 9 o’clock my mother was gone, died. So it’s possible, yes that’s the cause. Even though it is positive for COVID-19, “he explained. Burden Doubled Instantly For the majority of patients’ families, the oxygen crisis that hit Dr.Sardjito Hospital could only be felt in the area around the forensic room. It is impossible for COVID-19 patients to be cared for by their families, unless they are also confirmed positive. Indri, the family of one of the patients told how he had to spend the night to make sure his Pakde’s body was well taken care of. “Saturday night we were informed that your father’s condition was deteriorating, and he was sent to Sardjito. We got there at 12 more (Sunday morning-ed), we were told that you weren’t there at 11.30, and we were asked to wait in the forensic room,” said Indri. Indri asked the hospital staff at what time he could receive Pakde’s body. But all is not clear, so much to deal with. From the ward where Pakde was being treated, there was a queue of four bodies. Not from the other wards. He finally could only wait in front of the forensic room, and witness with his own eyes, how the condition of the hospital which turned out to be experiencing an oxygen crisis. “At that time there was Brimob delivering oxygen. It was about 1 o’clock or so, the oxygen was coming. Then there are many who want to take the bodies. Until Sunday morning there was still no news,” said Indri. Until then, Indri did not know that there was an oxygen crisis in Sardjito. He only admitted that in front of him the hospital staff was busy making calls and carrying oxygen cylinders. In addition, he also saw how nurses went up and down to escort the bodies to the forensic room every time. Initially, said Indri, the bodies were taken based on the serial number of death. However, because there were too many, the officers finally took the bodies together according to the ward where he was treated previously, so as not to exhaust their energy. The condition caused protests from the patient’s family, because it was not necessarily the one who had the small serial number, the body arrived first. “Incidentally my Pakde number 61, but it has dropped. There is a family of patient number 44, who has not yet come down. But because he’s in the bougainvillea nation. It’s a bit far, so it made a scene, there was a misunderstanding there in the forensic room, “said Indri. Pakde Indri’s body itself arrived at the morgue at 14.00 on Sunday. Left behind in the funeral There are so many things that need to be taken care of in the morgue, there are even patients’ families who are left behind in the funeral process, as happened to Pak Amarzoni. He who was tired of waiting for the queue of bodies, must be willing not to witness the burial of his wife. “I was in front of the forensic room, on the bench, while waiting for it I fell asleep exhausted. Then the ambulance that picked up my wife’s body at 05.00 in the morning had already left for the funeral. Then I was jolted around 08.00 am, then I asked in the morgue, that my wife had been taken by the corpse lifter. Then I chased it to the cemetery, it was already buried, “said Zoni. Zoni took his wife on Saturday, riding a motorbike. After the inspection process, Zoni went home to get a change of clothes and buy some things. Unfortunately, when he got back to the hospital, his wife was already in the isolation ward. By telephone, he asked his wife’s condition, which at that time, from the tone of her voice, concluded that Zoni’s wife was still experiencing shortness of breath. After being treated for several hours, Zoni’s wife was declared dead on Sunday at 00.30 WIB. Zoni himself just received the news, when he came back to the hospital at 14.00 WIB. “I am surprised. I want to be angry. What do you want? It felt like screaming. But how?” he added. After that, he took care of the necessary paperwork and waited in front of the forensic room. Early Sunday morning, in the middle of the body of another patient, he was exhausted and fell asleep on the bench in front of the forensic room. His cell phone died out of power. Officers brought the body to the cemetery at 5 a.m. Monday, and Zoni had only woken up four hours after the departure. He eventually followed him to the tomb, but found only a mound of earth where his wife lay forever. [ns/ab]
This article is a collaboration of journalists from seven media related to the pandemic, namely: Kompas, Gatra, IDN Times, Tirto.id, Jogja Daily, CNN INdonesia TV, and VOA Indonesia.