For the last 15 years, people around the world have seen Irom Sharmila with a tube in her nose. Even when she goes to court, the tube remains in place. The insertion of this 3ft-long tube is a cumbersome and painful procedure called nasogastric intubation. Sharmila is fed through this tube.
Through the nostril, the tube is inserted into the oesophagus and then pushed downwards to the stomach. The specialists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences say she is fed thrice a day. Her diet includes fresh apple and orange juices.
Long years of intubation has resulted in diarrhoea and lung diseases. Sharmila is given ORS (oral rehydration salts) water and plenty of normal water. She is also given vitamin B complex syrup on a regular basis.
The long years of fasting, however, has started taking its toll. Her weight has come down from 65kg to 40kg and she has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She is given diabetes-specific oral formula twice a day. She is also given dietary supplements. Her blood pressure is normal. The doctors, however, worry about a possible neuropathic attack. “Since she has already been diagnosed with diabetes, chances are high that she would develop diabetic neuropathy, especially because of her being in custody for such a long time. We are taking all measures to deal with this. But I am afraid one cannot live with this mechanism for long,” says a doctor.
Medical superintendent of the hospital, W. Gopimohan Singh, too, has similar concerns. “There can be so many complications arising from long years of intubation. Her condition may deteriorate in a few years,” says Singh. The major concern is aspiration of food or medicine into lungs which is deadly and difficult to deal with. Long years of intubation can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung ailments.