While in the ICU, Jayalalithaa always looked forward to visits by ‘King Kong’ – the name she fondly gave to three doughty nurses who took charge of her care.
“Several times, she would say, ‘You tell me what to do. I will do it’,” said C V Sheela, one of the nurses. “She smiled at us when we walked in, chatted with us, and, on most occasions, cooperated. When we were around, she made an effort to eat despite difficulties.
She would have one spoon for the sake of each of us and one for herself,” Sheela added.
Her diet included her favourite upma, pongal or curd rice and potato curry, prepared by her cook. There was a team of 16 nurses who were posted in three shifts; Sheela, M V Renuka and Samundeeswari were among her favourites.
After a condolence meeting at Apollo Hospitals, doctors, nurses and paramedics described how she was sometimes funny, usually cooperative, and occasionally difficult during her 75-day stay.
Doctor said he was boss in hospital, she said the state was her turf
Jayalalithaa was brought to the emergency room on the night of September 22 in severe discomfort. Four hours later, when her vitals were stable, she woke up and asked for some sandwiches and coffee. “It had been a long journey for her since then,” said Dr R Senthil Kumar, senior consultant, who led a team of intensive care experts.
When she wasn’t too tired, she would chat with duty doctors. She would give tips on skin care and sometimes ‘ordered’ them to change their hair style.
“She always advised women to give themselves some time however busy they were,” said medical director Dr Sathya Bhama.
She wasn’t a fan of Apollo Hospitals’ coffee. One day, she told a room full of nurses and doctors to pack up and come to her Poes Garden residence. “Come, let’s go home. I will serve you the best tea from Kodainadu,” said critical care expert Dr Ramesh Venkataraman.
There were moments when she was firm. When UK-based Richard Beale gave her a pep talk asking her to cooperate, telling her that in the hospital he was the boss, she weakly gestured to him that ‘this state’ was her turf.
Doctors vividly remember her being spirited when AIADMK won all three polls in Thanjavur, Arvakuruchi and Thiruparankundram on November 22. “She watched the news on Jaya TV and smiled,” Dr Bhama said.
But everything changed on that fateful Sunday evening. She was watching an old Tamil soap opera when an intensivist (name withheld) walked into her room. Jayalalithaa didn’t smile or talk. She seemed breathless. By the time the doctor adjusted the ventilator, the monitors around her had flat-lined.