Dr Richard Beale who treated Jayalalithaa at Chennai's Apollo hospital met the media in Chennai to speak about the circumstances that led to her death on Monday. Beale, who was brought in to treat Jayalalithaa on September 30 to Apollo Hospital, along with MMC coordinator Dr Balaji addressed the conference where reporters were told that the former chief minister suffered from a condition of a blood infection that led to organ failure.
The doctors said that Jayalalithaa suffered a cardiac arrest while a medical personnel was in the room. "We started CPR immediately and it went on for about 20 minutes. She was not responding and we failed to get a heart rhythm. She was then put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation," Dr Beale said.
He also added that Jayalalithaa herself did not want to be transferred to London. "We did review the option of transferring her to London but there are risks while transporting critical case patients. Facilities at Apollo are first grade. In later stages, she herself did not want to be transferred," he said.
'Bacterial infection the underlying problem'
The doctors said that Jayalalithaa was communicating through sign language and the doctors attempted lip reading to understand but as her condition improve initially she was aware and able to interact more. "We tried to start the improvement process as soon as we could. Physiotherapist, dieticians worked together. We meticulously planned the way treatment was provided to her," he said adding that sleeping medicines had to be given to her to ensure that she rested.
A day after Sasikala Natarajan was elected as the AIADMK's legislative party leader, the Tamil Nadu government arranged for this press conference to dispel rumours and allegations surrounding Jayalalithaa's death.
"Sepsis can affect quickly and a person can fall sick within hours. Bacterial infection was the underlying problem," Beale said.
'She was fully interactive'
The doctor duo said that while she was admitted for dehydration and fever, her condition worsened. "Infection spread to organs and led to shortness of breath," he said.When asked about her state of alertness when she gave her accent to election commission papers, Beale said that her condition improved initially and she was fully interactive.
"For a period of time, she was treated with non-invasive ventilation, and initial condition improved but sepsis progressed. It was necessary for her to go on a ventilator. She was fully interactive," he said.
The doctors said that it was not regular practice to click pictures or publish private details of patients and hence none was made public. Beale called in an intrusion on her privacy.
'Treatment cost between Rs 5 and Rs 5.5 crore'
During her hospitalisation, very limited people had access to Jayalalithaa. Beale on Tuesday said that Jayalalithaa took a call on who she would meet. "The chief minister would be personally asked if she would like to meet someone who was waiting. We would allow the person based on whether she wanted to or not," said Babu.
The team of doctors said that the entire cost of treatment provided to Jayalalithaa was between Rs 5 and Rs 5.5 crore. "The bill has been handed over to the family and they will make the payment," Balaji said. Beale on being asked about interactions with Sasikala said, "I met Sasikala on a number of occasions. She was present much of the time. She was both, a close friend and confidante Jayalalithaa. She was caring and supportive."
He added that sedation did not prevent her from interacting to some extent and sedation was given to her only to relieve pain but was gradually reduced.
Jaya passed away on December 5, not before
Beale said it was ridiculous to exhume Jayalalithaa's body when told that a section of the public wanted tests conducted to verify chances of poisoning. "There is no question here about poisoning. Anyone who goes through medical history will realise how silly this question is. It is clear what. There was nothing mysterious. We have given her the best treatment," he said. The doctors reiterated that Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5 and not earlier as rumours suggest.
Dr Sudha, director of anatomy at Madras Medical college gave out details of embalming procedure carried out on Jayalalithaa. "Embalming was done post-midnight after her death was announced. In cases of VIP death, the body is generally placed for public viewing and hence embalming is done. There were only ecchymotic spots when embalming was done," she said. She also said that had there been abnormal marks or pokes on her face, oozing would have taken place.
Beale further added that Jayalalithaa did not undergo any amputation or transplant. On concerns raised over marks on her face, he said, "Critically ill patients can have some marks on their cheeks."
Balaji, who addressed the media alongside Beale, added that he had read out the Election Commission letter to her while she was conscious, and had attested her thumb impression.
While maintaining that the press meet was organised by the government, the doctors maintained that there was no political pressure to dispel rumours but thought it best to address the issues. Balaji claimed that regular updates were given to AIADMK general secretary Sasikala Natarajan, Deputy Speaker Tambidurai and the then chief secretary.
'It was out of the blue'
"They were given updates on her health on a daily basis," they said. They added that she was with 'family' when undergoing treatment but refused to name who the family was.
Beale had released a press statement after Jayalalithaa's health condition deteriorated. He had called it a 'grave condition'. Recalling the day he said, " When this event (cardiac arrest) happened, I was informed. I was participating remotely. Could not join because of realities of travelling. I was surprised because it was out of the blue. The collapse especially when she was on road to recovery was shocking."
He also added that Jayalalithaa was given the care that could have been given in any hospital in the world. "When patients have a cardiac arrest, an ECMO is done but the outcome is mostly very poor," he said. He said that after a period the team of doctors treating her accepted the futility of the exercise. "It was a medical decision to take her off ECMO," he said while also adding that the government was informed of the same.