“I want to go home.” These were the first few words Chetan Cheetah said to his family on Wednesday after he was taken off the ventilator. The brave Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer who took nine bullets in an anti-terror operation in Kashmir four years ago and lived to tell the tale, was hoping his wish would come true in a day or two. His family, colleagues and doctors too were sanguine that Cheetah, as he is popularly called, would defeat death, like he has in the past. But the hopes turned to worry on Thursday morning as the officer suffering from Covid had to be put back on the ventilator.
The Kirti Chakra recipient was on ventilator support for nine days. Doctors thought he had cheated death once again when he stabilised and was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU). But on Thursday morning, the 45-year-old CRPF commandant became breathless. “He was on high-flow oxygen support in the ICU. But he had to be moved back on the ventilator as he became breathless and his vitals dipped,” a CRPF officer in touch with the doctors told News18.
Cheetah was rushed to AIIMS Jhajjar on May 9 after his oxygen level started dipping. He had tested positive for Covid a few days earlier. Even though the officer had isolated himself in order to protect himself from the virus, his son got infected and then Cheetah too tested positive. He was put on the invasive ventilator on May 30 after his parameters worsened.
Cheetah was the commanding officer of the 45th Battalion in Kashmir, which in February 2017 took on terrorists in the Hajjin encounter during which he was shot nine times and also lost an eye. The bullets had pierced through his brain, right eye, abdomen, arms and back. He was given the Kirti Chakra, the second-highest peacetime gallantry medal, for his bravery. Colleagues of the CRPF officer said that it was a miracle that Chetan Cheetah, who was comatose for a month and a half after the encounter, got back on his feet. Cheetah had rejoined work in 2018 after a year of surgeries and medical procedures. Colleagues and family members have expressed hope that he will defeat Covid too.
Doctors at AIIMS Jhajjar have said that Cheetah’s condition has stabilised.
The officer’s wife Uma Singh, who rushed to Jhajjar after hearing that her husband had been put on the ventilator, said he had become fragile because of the prolonged stay in hospital and that worried her. “I am fighting with all the gods,” an anguished Uma said.