Dr Sana Usman: Strangled by a hospital elevator

Published: October 21, 2012

It was in those gaps in which her dupatta got stuck as the elevator moved and it strangulated her. PHOTO: MISHA TANVEER

I didn’t actually talk to her during my five years at med-school. I only saw her occasionally, and noticed her even more infrequently; but those who did, lost her the morning of October 9, 2012.

Her death was not due to natural causes; her death was also not an accident; her death was no less than murder.

Her name was Dr Sana Usman and she was my batch mate in Sindh Medical College. We had only just graduated in March and it had been five months since we have started our house jobs in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) – one of the largest federal government hospitals in Pakistan.

For more than one week she was on a ventilator and cardiac support in the surgical ICU of JPMC. Her only mistake was that she used the elevators in the Nephrology department – elevators that had gaping holes in its doors, where there should have been glass.

It was in those gaps in which her dupatta got stuck as the elevator moved and it strangulated her. In her effort to free herself her arm was twisted behind her back and inside the open window of the door. After considerable delay she was ‘rescued’ from the elevator and brought to JPMC’s emergency department on a stretcher that was pushed on the road as fast as it could go.

She was declared dead in the ER before she was resuscitated and her heart restarted. This took more than 15 minutes of CPR, enough for her brain to be permanently damaged because of lack of oxygen. From there, she was shifted to the surgical ICU.

But all of this was to no avail.

It only brought nine days of false hope to Sana’s family and to us.

Her death has been a shocking eye opener for all of us and a testimonial to our government’s efficiency. The responsibility of her death lies at the blood stained hands of the negligent management at JPMC and the lax attitude of the government.

What kind of a working environment are we doctors working in?

I don’t even know if we will even come out alive after this mandatory one year training. I say this because thee is an occasional exchange of gun fire and bomb threats (read explosions) on its premises including the ER. Here looters are on the loose and can at any given time snatch you off your valuables or better yet sneak into sleeping female doctors on-call room and steal from their bedsides and even worse.

Here, at JPMC, men even strut around with their pants down assaulting unassuming doctors.

We have been working here for five months without a single month’s salary being paid to us!

Can you imagine living like this?

That’s what the late Dr Sana Usman said to her sister a day before the fatal accident. She expressed her concern of being a financial burden on her parents even though she was a working woman.

I beg you, I beg the president of Pakistan and the director of JPMC, don’t let more of us die in vain. Please, let Sana’s death be a catalyst for change – a change for the better and for the good.

Misha Tanveer

Misha Tanveer

Currently working at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Misha has a keen interest in writing and photography.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nobody

    Wow what a terrible tragedy! Mad respect to people who work in such conditions, my hats off to you. I don’t know if I could be strong and thick skinned enough to do so. Hope this tragedy bring about change to prevent anymore such incidents. Recommend

  • Nandita.

    I bed the president of Pakistan and the director of JPMC, don’t let more of us die in vain.

    Mods -please change the word in bold to begRecommend

  • Zehra

    oh my God, oh my God.
    This is insane. And happening in one of the largest Karachi hospitals. Insane.Recommend

  • Rabia

    how absolutely horrific. you’re right, doctors are working under appalling conditions. It is an unmistakable message when politicians are given a huge raise in the salaries every year, and those whose work is so much more valuable and who work so much harder (which includes many others above politicians on the ladder) are not looked after.Recommend

  • Op

    extremely sad to hear that..our blood is too cheap Recommend

  • Faraz

    *Beg the President – not ‘bed’ ….good articleRecommend

  • fawad

    its always been and always will profits vs humans no matter what no one can change that and no one ever will sana’s story, just like the stories of millions of pakistanis, would soon fade away with time and everything would return to the way it was unfortunate but true Recommend

  • ZZQ

    May Allah SWT bless the departed soul and help the aggrieved family.

    Working without a salary and in such abusive conditions??? Typical of what outcome we have from a ‘Meritless’ and ‘Corrupt’ society we have bread!Recommend

  • Sajidullah Mahmood

    This is a horrific event. Why has the director JPMC and the executive deputy director not come out with an explanation yet? How can they be so criminally quiet about this?
    The JPMC admin did not hold even a small condolence meeting/fateha for her, it is as if they disown the very people that work day and night to keep the hospital running.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Author: “There is an occasional exchange of gun fire and bomb threats (read explosions) on its premises including the ER. Here looters are on the loose and can at any given time snatch you off your valuables or better yet sneak into sleeping female doctors on-call room and steal from their bedsides and even worse….Here, at JPMC, men even strut around with their pants down assaulting unassuming doctors…..We have been working here for five months without a single month’s salary being paid to us!”

    I am shocked to read this accidental death of Dr Sana Usman. Even more shocked at how these lady doctor’s are being treated at JPMC. My sympathies are with Dr Sana’s families. Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    Had you not told this many of us would not have known about it for apparently it didn’t capture the attention of the mainstream media.

    Doctors work under appalling conditions in the country and hence there is a clear explanation as to why most of them want to escape as soon as they can to foreign land (although I have my reservations about this as there is a burden of social responsibility that they forgo in doing so). If they ask for a raise and go on a strike (young doctors association in point) they are labelled as killers but no one is willing to listen to their story.

    It is about time something is done about this state of affairs. Recommend

  • n hasan

    Sad but true. This is how deplorable our conditions are. But i thunk we need to find other alternatives than depending on the govt and the president if pakistan because the people who loot and steal and harrass are all of the same league as the president. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Sad but I am not surprised or alarmed because when we have a system where, if a law maker or a senior government official so much as needs a health ‘check up’ he/she flies out of the country at tax payers expense, then things like this will happen, irrespective of which party is in power.Recommend

  • Rubina

    I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news of the unfortunate demise of Dr.Sana Usman … in a tragic accident in elevator.Dr Sana Usman was House officer & colleaque of my daughter at the nephrology ward of the JPMC .like her many House officers had not been paid their rightful salary for many months. Today we condemn the attack on Malala but there are other unsung heroes out there like Dr Sana who sacrifice their lives while doing their duty.I pray to the Almighty God to grant peace to the departed soul and give enough strength to his family, colleagues and all nears and dears to enable them to bear this unbearable shock.Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    I am so very sorry to hear about Dr. Sana Usman. Great tragedy! I live in Canada and keep wanting to come back to Pakistan but when my hubby hears these kind of things, he says yeh hia Pakistan jahan tum jana chahti ho :((Recommend

  • Sundus

    I have never seen such lifts outside Pakistan. Are we buying them second hand? This is such a heart breaking accident. I think we should remove all elevators and use stairs, until we can afford good ones. Recommend

  • islooite

    oh ! what a tragic incident :( May her soul rest in peace ameen .
    Govt please pay heed to problems of our doctors. Recommend

  • Zalim Singh
  • rif

    Sana Usman,

    In august 2012 (in Ramadan) suddenly i was called. It wasy our father, he told me about you and your brother, that both of you have completed your study and are ready for the next step of your lifes. He also told me after the marriages of his two childeren he will visit us. But…..

    God, give sana a good place in paradise. She is really a good person. She is a real hero who sacrificed her life while doing her duty. I pray to the Allah to give her peace in Heaven and give enough strength to her family, colleagues and all nears and enable them to bear this unbearable suddenly shock.

    All people of pakistan think, only the goverment or the president can help them to replace the lift. I think the people of pakistan are more powerfull than any president. They can stop this kind of accidents.

    God doesn’t help people who don’t help themselfs. Misha Tanveer you are the first one who dared to write about this accident. I think you are very brave and you know about your rights, you just need little help of others to change this systeem of bad environment at your work. I request to all pakistani people, help people like Misha to raise their voice against every bad system. You don’t have to work in such a circumstances. You’re human beings. You must be treated with respect. Your boss is responsible for the good work conditions and circumstances.

    Be aware and stand up for your rights. If you are together you can achieve everything. Only the first step is difficult.

    It really can… God is with you. Wake up my brothers, sisters and childeren. Nobody has such a brain and wisdom as the people of pakistan. Please use this to do the right things.
    Lots of love, Recommend

  • Ali

    compulsory duppatta, and other loose fitting garments
    A women deserves to be strangulated in a lift
    but if her bare hands or head is seen in public, she is a sinner
    God bless this nation Recommend

  • fauzi

    Very Very Sad indeed,am not able to hold my tears after reading this article.my sister was a graduate of same college,she told me that when she was doing housejob in JPMC 14 years ago this lift was in a same pathetic condition as it is today……..Shame on us.Recommend

  • Unlucky sister

    Very very sad .I’m the sister of Sana Usman .she is just like a daughter to me.istill remembe the day she was born and cant forget that moment when I hold her in my hand. She is the baby of the family.u have no idea in what kind of situation we are going through.she has so many dreams and she was very ambitious.our mum and dad r still in shock.we have no idea how can this happen? It is very very hard to cope this big shock.we r trying to be normal in front of our mum and dad but from inside our heart is sad and crying.i dont knw wht to do where to go and reverse the time and bring her back in our lives.Now only thing we want is that this kind of accident will never happen again.government should do something to stop this happening again and do something that give our mum and dad a satisfaction that their daughter’s scarification is not gone in vain and her name will always remember in the medical history of Pakistan. Please , please for my mum and dad’sake do something that is the only way we can less their pain and make them able to live their rest of their life in some peace ,because they r very very depressed and disheartened. I only c an pray to God to give us strength to bear this big tragedy .amen plzz I’m addressing to the whole group of people who r reading this message plzzzzzzzzzzzzzz do something.Recommend

  • Ms. Ras

    Too many shocking incidents ; Too many unwarratned and untimely deaths ;
    Our blood is too cheap…………. I lost my father in a road accident. The sudden ,an imaginable loss of a near one is too un bearable……. no one can imagine how painful it could be. It leaves unhealable scars on the soul………

    May Allah give Sabr to the parents of this lady and her family. Recommend

  • Born to Kill.

    Sympathies for Sana Usman`s family; it should be concieved an accident rather pointing authorities on it… Nothing could be done if our time goes End,everyOne has to die… Be Optimistic…!!Recommend

  • Misha

    Dear Unlucky Sister,
    If you really are Sana Usmans sister then I’d like to tell you something. This article spread like fire when I posted it on my facebook page. So much so that I was bombarded with calls from high up in the government machinery; not only did the calls come on my cellphone but also at my home telephone and my fathers cellphone too. I did what I could at my level to make sure some actions were taken so that nothing like this happens again. But let me tell you what happened. When the higher authorities started to take action, we House Officers were threatened that we would be FIRED from our jobs if we pursued this matter. Allhumdulilah me and a handful of young doctors stood firmly with what was right but unfortunately I cannot say the same about the rest. Majority of Sana’s colleagues backed out and blatantly lied that they had no idea with what was going on and were not involved with anything. This I inform you with the utmost regret and disappointment.
    All of this brings me to the conclusion that whatever conditions that we are working in are brought upon us by none other than our OWN SELVES. And to broaden this thought; whatever is happening in Pakistan is because of the PEOPLE of pakistan and nobody else can be blamed for it. Because when one doesnt want to even strive for their own rights, to safeguard their own lives, then that person is a lost cause.
    People of Pakistan, please come out of your egocentric and self-centered lives. Recommend

  • Zainab

    Well I have all my sympathies with Sana and lots of concern for our nation.All of us are self fish,self centered and egocentric. Nothing can be more worse than this. What are the government officials doing? But how can u wake up someone who is already dead. At-least the young doctors should have supported her. After all this was for their own safety and more than safety their own rights.Recommend

  • zakir Hussain

    Sana death is a message to you all house job students and doctors to wake up and do something against those corrupt administration. They are mafia and have no plan for your safety and security. Watch all around and take a notes if you see anything which is directly threat to your life. Do not ignore.

    I have the information that the administration did not fix the elevator problem. But there is not only one problem rather plenty. How are you going to make it???????Recommend

  • Another Pakistani

    Misha. You are a brave girl. You wrote this blog despite the fact that your job was not the only thing that would be at risk with this piece. Kudos for standing up for the right cause. I hope Sana’s death doesnt go in vain. Till we have people like you and your fellow doctors who stood firmly for this cause, we will still have the right to hope against hope. Wish you all the best in your efforts.Recommend

  • Tehniat Ahsan

    I came to know about Sana’s death a day before. Our father’s were colleagues and I remember Sana as a small baby.

    We used to go to school in the same coaster!

    It has come as a shock and I am feeling so bad for her parents and siblings!

    May Allah grant her with the highest place in Jannah!

    Just a reminder to all those who actually just read the word “bed” in the whole article. The person who has written it and that who has proof read it is a human being as well and such typos happen. Thanks for pointing out the typo though, but a little sympathy with the family would have been great!Recommend

  • Faizia kamran

    I also remeber few years back when I was in SMC ,one student fell down in the elevator because the lift was on ground floor ad the door opened on second floor a student was badly hurt…. Seems these kind of accidents are still happening in JPMC….very sad.Recommend