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Irfan, Karikkakam school van tragedy survivor, dies

He was in a vegetative state for nearly eight years

Irfan(11), one of the survivors of the Karikkakam school van tragedy that shocked Kerala in 2011, died at a private hospital here on Monday.

He was four-years old when his school van plunged into the heavily polluted Parvathy Puthanar Canal in Thiruvananthapuram, killing six of his nursery school classmates and their caretaker. Emergency services rescued nine of the 15 occupants of the van, including Irfan.

However, there was no sign of life in him when rescuers brought Irfan to the hospital. The doctors gave his parents a gloomy prognosis about his recovery.

Sewage had contaminated Irfan’s lungs, causing severe pneumonia. Doctors put him on life support. They incised his neck and inserted a tube through his trachea to facilitate breathing. Surgeons opened his abdomen and put a “gastric feeding tube” into the stomach to nourish him.

Irfan battled for life for several months. Finally, when his vital functions stabilised, he seemed incapable of talking, hearing, seeing or responding to sensory stimuli.

The child had been in the canal for 25 minutes before rescuers hauled him out. By the time, Irfan’s brain had suffered severe damage due to oxygen deprivation. He had been in a vegetative state ever since.

Irfan’s parents Shajahan (40) and Sajin (28) spend their meagre earnings treating their son. Their resilience in the face of heavy odds and Irfan’s battle to come back to life caught public notice and resonated strongly among Keralites. Soon, help poured in. Volunteers build a house for the family. Celebrities such as Manju Warrier called on Irfan regularly and highlighted his fight. Irfan’s parents had never lost hope and were at his side when he died.

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