Remembering Dr Simon Hercules, First Doctor in TN Claimed by COVID
A doctor known for his generosity, Dr Simon was denied dignity in death by the residents of the city he served.
Producer: Smitha TK
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
“The demise of Dr Simon Hercules is what opened the eyes to the nation. Our country understood the consequences of what COVID can do. It does not kill people alone, even the doctors. Today it was Dr Simon, tomorrow it could be you, it could be me.”Dr Pradeep, Orthopaedic Surgeon & Dr Simon’s Colleague
On 19 April, a 55-year-old neurosurgeon, Dr Simon Hercules, had breathed his last. He was the first doctor in Tamil Nadu who died of COVID-19.
It has been five months since his death, and the doctor’s family continues to receive calls and messages from colleagues and patients acknowledging the doctor’s efforts and goodwill.
“There are people whose lives have been changed by this man and they still owe it to him and he is living through them,” Dr Pradeep, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Dr Simon’s colleague told The Quint.
Denied Dignity in Death
The neurosurgeon has helped hundreds of patients in his lifetime and is remembered by people around him as a person who put humanity first. But in his death, Dr Simon was denied dignity by residents of the city he served.
In fact, his family couldn’t even bid a final goodbye to the doctor, who had contracted the disease from patients he was treating. He passed away at the Apollo Hospital in Vanagaram in Chennai on 19 April and at 9 pm his body was handed over to the concerned authorities.
His family and colleagues along with corporation officials initially went to TP Chatram in Kilpauk for the last rites. But when they were on their way, they were told a crowd of 100 people had gathered near the burial ground in a bid to stop them.
According to the police, local civic workers had informed the residents about the burial and people had gathered to protest, stirred by rumours that this could lead to the spread of the virus.
The ambulance carrying Dr Simon’s body was then diverted to the Velangadu cemetery to avoid any altercations. However, even there they were met with sticks and stones.
Dr Pradeep still recollects how the corporation officials had run away because of the attack and had to return later at 11pm to perform the rites quietly. He along with two ward boys and a policeman managed to finally lay the doctor to rest.
“At that time all that I had was fear and responsibility. I have to finish burying him and run for my life. I can't run away from my responsibility,” he told The Quint.
A Man Who Did Real Charity
Dr Simon Hercules hailed from a humble family in Tirunelveli. He completed his MBBS at the Chengalpattu Medical College, University of Madras and graduated in 1989. He then completed MS (General Surgery), FRCS (Edin), MCh (Neurosurgery) and Clinical Attachment in Neurosurgery.
He then started the New Hope Medical Centre in Kilpauk in Chennai and was known as a proficient neurosurgeon in the city.
Several patients whose lives have been saved because of Dr Simon said he was a hardworking man, full of integrity. He has treated many patients for free, who couldn’t afford it.
“We are from a village in Tirunelveli and he studied in a government school. God usually doesn’t give one person everything – education, good character, desire to help. He was such a good man. There is nothing that can do to make up for this loss. He was working all the time and serving people. He had treated so many for free,” said Anandi, his wife.
“A young female patient came and she didn’t have any money. She required a huge spinal surgery which would’ve costed lakhs. He said we will do it here. Expenses were too high but he said, ‘Thats okay. We’ll take care.’ People who do real charity don’t go out and say they are doing all this.”Dr Pradeep, Orthopaedic Surgeon & Dr Simon’s Colleague
‘Treat the Poor, God Will Pay Us’
He founded the Antony Foundation in 2013 for providing health, social, educational and medical services to the needy.
Dr Jason who worked with him for nine years and considers Dr Simon as his mentor, friend and role model, said he always talked about serving people, rather than just treating them. “He would mingle with everybody and not see who is poor, rich, educated, illiterate. If there was a decision to be taken in the hospital he would accept suggestions from the baseline workers to the high level ones,” he said.
His children Aro Shime Hercules and Aloysius Anton Hercules wish to take his good work forward.
“My father would always say, if they are poor and we give them service, then God will pay us back,” she said.
India has recorded over one lakh deaths due to COVID-19, which includes over 400 doctors. But these are not mere numbers. These healthcare workers have saved so many lives and educated many to do the same and so their memory lives on.
“I hope his life is not lost in vain. I want people to understand that he fought for us and lost and we are fighting on his behalf now.”Dr Pradeep, Orthopaedic Surgeon & Dr Simon’s Colleague
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