BANGKOK/KATHMANDU, March 8: It was around 7:30 pm on February 19. Sunil Khadka, a Bangkok-based Nepali businessman, had just woken up from an evening nap and was staying idle in one of the bedrooms of his apartment on the sixth floor of Premier Place at Rama 9 Road in the Thai capital.
“I didn´t have any plans for the evening so I was just taking a rest,” Khadka told Republica, recalling events of that day.
Then there was a knock on the door. As Khadka opened the door, he saw former Crown Prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah standing with a cup of black tea on his hand. Forty-one-year-old Shah, who was sharing Khadka´s apartment for the past two months, had prepared that tea for Khadka.
“He (Shah) had become more like my elder brother and a friend, so the favor was not unnatural,” said Khadka, who is also the general secretary of Non-Resident Nepalis Association (Thailand Chapter).
As they started taking tea, Shah and Khadka, along with Khadka´s wife and Shah´s Thai friend Kannika Chaisan, started making dinner plans. One option was eating outside. “But he (Shah) wanted to have Nepali food and volunteered to make chicken himself,” Khadka said. “I was told to cook rice and daal (lentil soup).”
Since Khadka´s refrigerator didn´t have much stock of food, he offered to drive down to Foodland Supermarket in Ramkhamhaeng area to get some meat. He also took his wife along with him.
“After I bought the meat, I received a phone call from the apartment. But I didn´t answer it thinking it was just another call to query about my whereabouts,” Khadka said. “A minute or two later, I received a text message (from Kannika).”
Khadka´s heart froze as he went through the message. “It had said (former) crown prince had suffered a heart attack and was unconscious,” he said. This was the second cardiac arrest Shah had suffered since September 2007.
Khadka immediately called the apartment and asked the security personnel to help Kannika bring Shah to the hospital. Shah was taken to Samitivej Hospital in Srinakarin area of Bangkok. Khadka also drove different way to the hospital. “We all reached the hospital around the same time,” Khadka said.
Then came the shocker.
“Doctors who were attending to (former) crown prince told me he can´t be saved as his heart had stopped beating for quite a long time,” Khadka said, his voice quivering. This was horrifying news for Khadka, who had established good rapport with the former crown prince.
“I told the doctors they can´t say such a thing and asked them repeatedly to keep trying until I establish contact with his family members,” Khadka said.
After 90 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with multiple DC shocks, Shah´s breathing and blood circulation resumed. But Shah was comatose at that time due to hypoxic injury to the brain, the hospital said.
He was then put on a ventilator, to facilitate artificial respiration. Doctors also successfully performed balloon angioplasty and stent placement to facilitate delivery of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle and prevent recurrence of blockage in the coronary artery.
“I didn´t sleep the whole night,” Khadka said.
The next morning, Shah was shifted to hospital´s Sukumvit branch, where medical facilities are better. He was still in a comatose state at that time and doctors treated him with therapeutic hypothermia to prevent further injury to brain and vital organs. They also performed a CT scan and no traces of blood clots were found.
That evening Prerana Singh, Dilasha Shah, Dr Rajive Shahi, Puja Shahi and Adarsha Rana flew to Bangkok.
Then on Feb 22 rumors of Shah´s death started flying on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The relish with which some people had latched onto the idea of seeing Shah dead was shocking.
That afternoon Adarsha Rana, Shah´s family member who was seen around Starbucks café in Samitivej Hospital, was fuming at those who were spreading baseless rumors. “How can people be so senseless?,” he expressed his anger in a casual conversation with this correspondent.
A few minutes later, Dr Rajive Shahi, a son-in-law of the former royal family, also arrived at the cafe. He clarified that rumors about Shah´s death were groundless but denied making further comments--although most of Shah´s family members told this correspondent to get information from him because of his status as a medical doctor.
That afternoon some Nepalis working in Bangkok and former minister Senate Shrestha, who is operating a business in Krabi of Thailand, were also seen at the hospital. But no one was allowed to see Shah, who was still battling for life.
That evening former Crown Princess Himani Shah arrived in Bangkok. That was the day the hospital also issued its first official statement citing Shah´s condition as “very critical but stable”.
The next day -- on February 23 -- Shah´s condition further deteriorated as he developed bleeding from stomach because of use of blood-thinning medicine. The bleeding was immediately stopped and further complications were not reported.
Then on February 25, the hospital invited a team of doctors from Bangkok Hospital to assist in Shah´s treatment.
Till that time word about Shah´s medical condition had spread throughout Thailand, which triggered incessant flow of Nepalis and people of Nepali origin living in the country to the hospital. Many even organized gatherings in and outside the country to pray for Shah´s speedy recovery.
Now, it looks like those prayers were heard.
On February 27, the hospital, in a statement, said Shah moved his limbs spontaneously. That was on the day when his parents -- former King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah and former Queen Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah -- had arrived in Bangkok.
Reliable sources told Republica that the limb movements were seen after his body temperature was raised to normal of 37 degrees centigrade that day. Under the therapeutic hypothermia treatment conducted on Shah, doctors were gradually raising Shah´s body temperature over the past few days to avoid multiple organ failure.
Since that time his condition has only improved. Shah regained consciousness on March 2 and was taken off the ventilator the following day. He can now communicate verbally and doctors are said to have put him on liquid diet.
“Looking over, it looks like a miracle has happened. A man, who doctors said could not be revived, has come back to life,” Khadka told Republica, albeit expressing displeasure over Shah´s habit of skipping medication and regular heath checkups.