Advancements Towards Hope

‘Don’t get too attached to her. Such children don’t survive beyond four – five years of age,’ said the doctor to my parents.

I was about six months old at that time. And yes, it was my lifespan the doctor was estimating. I had just been declared a patient of Thalassemia Major. And to get that diagnoses, my parents had had to travel from Mathura to Delhi and sit in All India Institute of Medical Sciences for hours before they found out what was wrong with me. And when they finally knew, they were told there was no hope.

Today, I’m 36 years old. I am a published novelist, have a full time job, and a future still to look forward to with hope.

Kids suffering from Thalassemia no longer are considered as good as dead from birth. They grow up, have a healthy social and professional life. Several thalassemics have even gotten married, though only very recently and it’s only but the first generation of us Thalaseemics in India that have managed to reach to this stage. It is the advancement in medical sciences and the modern healthcare that has brought us this far. And as the medical field continues to advance, we are hopeful that we may even find a cure for Thalaseemia some day! Soon, very soon! Till then, thanks to all the advancement of modern healthcare, we are being able to live a normal life, or very nearly so.

All this has been made possible thanks to the advancement in medical knowledge and modern healthcare facilities that are now available in India. A lot more needs to be achieved, for sure. There are far too many of us that are devoid of the benefits of the modern healthcare due to its unavailability in their region, or it being beyond their financial means.

As I wrote that sentence, I was reminded of one young Thalassemic boy I met years ago. His skin was bluish black due to extreme iron overload in his body. We Thalassemics need a regular iron chelation therapy comprising of several injections daily and oral chelation pills. His father was not in the position to afford these drugs. And all he was getting, as his mother told us, was two chelation capsules from the government hospital at the time of blood transfusion. Two pills in a month! That’s like eating a morsel of bread in a month! Of little use was modern healthcare to him!

I know too well there are many more like him, far too many more, who can’t still afford even the minimum required treatment.

But to those who find modern healthcare within their reach and means, it is proving itself a blessing in more ways then one. More diseases have become curable now, that were previously thought to be hopeless. Better, easier, and less painful and intrusive ways of treatment are being tried. Many myths have been busted. Many necessary facts about keeping a good health been made common knowledge. Life expectancy is increased, childhood has become less dangerous and aging a little easier. And best of all ‘good treatment’ no longer means going abroad.  Indian medical facilities are quickly speeding to be at par with those available anywhere else. The increasing medical tourism in India shows it clearly enough.

But what does it all mean? In one word, HOPE! Hope of better treatment, available to more of us. Hope of finding suitable treatment at a place we can reach, at a price we can afford. Hope of a healthier future to those who weren’t predicted to have any future at all.

We haven’t totally achieved that yet. And as in every sphere of Indian society, there are ills pervading even our medical facilities. Modern healthcare is not devoid of selfishness, exploitation, ignorance, carelessness, and even blatant cheating. But let’s not let that take away from all the good that has been made possible thanks to all the long years of steady progress and advancements in the medical field.

I, certainly, won’t do that. I love doctors and nurses. They are the reasons I am alive today, and all the unseen scientists and researchers behind them. And believe it or not, when I visit the place where we lived till a few years ago, I never complete the round without visiting the local hospital and meeting the doctors and nurses there!

Anyway, when it comes to hospitals, I have seen quite a few, from the best to the worst, I believe. I have been to a hospital where the only available water supply for a whole ward was one single tap in the toilet, where medical students were given full liberty to experiment and kill, and where the bed sheets were never considered worthy of a change till they stank. And I have seen a hospital of which, believe it or not, I have only fond memories in my heart.

Yes, fond memories of a hospital stay. But I was only admitted to that hospital because my family physician thought the doctors there might help me better. That is, I was only there for consultation, not because I was serious or anything.

That was the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. It was many years ago and I have really forgotten the names and faces of the doctors and nurses there. But what I remember quite well is the neatness of that hospital. The bright and pleasantly adorned walls of the children ward. The gentle and attentive nurses, the friendly doctors. The orderliness and to-the-clock schedule in which the bed clothes were changed and the milk and meals were supplied to the patients. Once, I remember, I had to have a test done empty stomach. No breakfast was served to me that day. But as soon as I returned from getting the test done, in two minutes my breakfast arrived, all neatly wrapped and freshly warmed. Such was the attentive and meticulous care I experienced there.

Unfortunately, even the doctors there couldn’t do much for me. I was already unsuitable for a bone marrow transplant, and there’s no other treatment for thalassemia available as yet.

But the news has started trickling in that experiments are going on in gene therapy and that it might soon be able to make available a cure for even Thalassemia. Advancements are also being made in proper management of Thalassemia. And in these advancement of modern healthcare lies hope. HOPE!

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This post was inspired by the Indiblogger contest: ‘How Does Modern Healthcare Touch Lives.

Copyright 2013 Jyoti Arora

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