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'She Was Always Meant To Be a Doctor': How Friends, Family Remember Vandana Das

Dr Vandana Das, a house surgeon, was stabbed to a death by a patient in Kerala's Kottarakkara.

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Dr Jishnu Shaji was on operation theatre (OT) duty at hospital in Kerala's Ernakulam on Wednesday, 10 May, when someone told him that a house surgeon was murdered by a patient at a government hospital in Kollam district.

He didn't know who it was, but he was upset. In fact, just two days ago, he was assaulted by a drunk patient with an IV stand. "I took it lightly then. I thought it was just a part and parcel of our life as a doctor," Dr Jishnu told The Quint over the phone.

But it was only after he got out of the OT and saw the stream of calls and messages on his phone that he realised the doctor who was killed was his childhood friend, Vandana Das.

"I studied with Vandana from Class 8 to Class 12 at De Paul Public School, Kuravilangad [Kottayam district]. I will always remember her as someone who was very passionate. She knew she wanted to be a doctor from Class 10," Dr Jishnu said.

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Dr Vandana Das was a house surgeon at the Kottarakkara Taluk Hospital. After completing MBBS from Azeezia Medical College in Kollam, she was given a rural posting at the hospital, where she had been working since March.

But fate was cruel to Dr Vandana, who was just 22. At about 4 am on Wednesday, in a random act of violence, a 42-year-old schoolteacher, who was brought to the hospital for treatment of his wounds, stabbed her with scissors on her head, neck, and spine.

The accused, Sandeep, was undergoing treatment for drug use at a de-addiction centre previously, and was accompanied by the police, who were also injured in the incident.

Dr Vandana was rushed to KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram, but despite best efforts, she could not be saved. Her funeral will be held at 2 pm at her house in Kottayam on Thursday, 11 May.

'Was a Passionate Learner'

"As soon as I learned about Vandana's death, I called up our class teacher from school. She asked me: 'How can anyone hurt someone like Vandana, who was so soft-spoken and innocent?' And then she just burst into tears," Dr Jishnu told The Quint.

Dr Jishnu described her as someone who was friendly with everyone she came across. "When we were in school, she genuinely liked what she studied. She learned things out of passion, not out of compulsion. There are plenty of people who do medicine just for the sake of doing it. But Vandana was not like that."

"She never missed any classes. She was very determined. She was not just a studious person, she was also a good dancer."

He added that though they were never able to meet each other in person since Class 12, they always kept in touch. "We were always in touch over the phone, but we were really busy with our course. After exams, I would text her to say I've cleared everything. Whenever something important happened in our lives, we would let each other know."

Standing outside Vandana's house for her funeral on Thursday morning, Dr Jishnu said "this was not how I imagined I would see her again."

"I live nearby, and I always thought the next time I visited her house, I would be going there for a celebration – like her wedding. I didn't expect to be here for her funeral. I'm finding it difficult to even step into the house."
Dr Jishnu
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'She Was Just Home for Vishu'

"Vandana parents' only had her, so they gave her all the love and care in the world," Dr Vandana's uncle Jayathilak told The Quint. She hailed from Manjoor town in Kottayam district, and was the only daughter of businessman KG Mohandas and Vasanthakumari.

"As soon as she completed MBBS, her father installed a nameplate outside their house that said: 'Dr Vandana Das MBBS'. They were very proud of her – and they spent all their money on her education."
Jayathilak
Dr Vandana Das, a house surgeon, was stabbed to a death by a patient in Kerala's Kottarakkara.

The nameplate outside Dr Vandana's house in Kottayam.

(Photo: Twitter)

Jayathilak recalled how Vandana had come home for Vishu, the Malayali New Year, on 15 April, and how it was a happy time for their family. "Vandana was always meant to be a doctor. She cared for people and animals, too. She even had two cats at home!"

When The Quint spoke to Jayathilak, he was making arrangements for Dr Vandana's funeral. "Her friends and teachers from her school and college are all here. It's a sea of people. It only goes to show how much she was loved and how much she will be missed."

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Dr Vandana's death has yet again thrown light on the lack of safety of doctors in hospitals. The Kerala House Surgeon Association is on a strike across the state, demanding better safety measures and work environment for young doctors.

Since Wednesday, they have been boycotting outpatient duties, including emergency services in hospitals across Kerala, demanding justice for Dr Vandana and many like her.

The Kerala unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Kerala Medical Postgraduate Association have also called for a strike and boycott of duties.

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