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Anita: PACE teacher and BUDS frontline worker
“I hope she gets better soon and comes back home”, Dr. Rajeev Seth (Senior Paediatrician & Managing Trustee, BUDS) said. He had just finished examining Piu and writing a prescription for her. This is the story of how this 18-year-old came to his clinic…
Piu (name changed to protect confidentiality) lives with her family near Sarai Kale Khan in Delhi and is enrolled in the PACE programme run by BUDS (and Nirantar) for adolescent girls. Her older sister Poonam (name changed) is an alumnus of the programme. Nobody in the 7-member family – her mother, father, older brother, sisters and mother ─ work for a living. They live off house-rent – earned from a few tenants who live on the upper floor of their small home.
That day when she came to the Centre, Piu seemed even paler than usual and her breathing was laborious and heavy. Anita, her teacher at the PACE Centre, was concerned but Piu brushed away all queries about her health and insisted on going home. Anita persisted and went home with Piu, where she checked her oxygen saturation with the Oximeter that all BUDS staff carry with them. Initially, the readings varied and Anita checked that the batteries were working and after some time, took a few more readings, this time with Piu’s sister Poonam’s help. It was then that Piu admitted that she was having slight difficulty in breathing.
Shocked, Anita demanded to know why the family had ignored Piu’s breathlessness? Her mother said that she had been admitted to a big referral hospital and since she had tested negative for COVID-19, while she was an in-patient there, she had ignored the “slightly feverish condition” of her daughter. Anita called the PACE Coordinator, Ananya, to ask for her advice. Meanwhile Anita had meticulously put on file all the lab test and X-ray reports as well as prescriptions. So, they didn’t waste any time. Piu and her mother rushed to another big hospital, where she hung around waiting to be attended to until late evening. Anita – who had constantly been in cellphone contact with the duo – then decided to get an appointment with Dr. Rajeev Seth the next morning and asked the mother and daughter to go home.
“I was shocked when I saw Piu’s home”, recalls Anita “it was dark and dingy. Not a chink of light entered and there were no lights burning, even though they had electricity. The other disturbing thing was Piu’s father. Throughout the visit, when we were discussing her condition, he kept lying down with his face to the wall”. Puzzled by Piu’s home situation, Anita asked her what the matter was. Why was her father so uncommunicative and moreover, why was the house so dark? Piu explained that since her father didn’t work, he was at home all day and extremely irritable. If someone switched on a light or television, he would rave and rant about rising electricity costs. Her brother was never home – he left the house early every morning and came home late at night. No one knew where he went or what he did.
Braving the scorching Delhi heat, the next day, Piu and her mother went to Dr. Seth’s clinic and was subjected to a thorough medical examination. Piu had had TB in 2020 and said she had been cured after six months of taking treatment. Dr. Seth realized that over and above her breathing distress and low oxygen saturation, the girl was malnourished, her haemoglobin count was 7 gms. At the age of 18 she weighed only 33 kgs! In the midst of the COVID -19 pandemic, right in the heart of Delhi, Dr. Seth discovered a story of neglect and severe respiratory infection that required immediate hospitalization. However, he first had to stabilize her the best he could and make her comfortable. He put her on a Bronchodilator and also nebulized her. Meanwhile, he called a friend who was a senior physician at the National Institute of Tuberculosis & Respiratory diseases and booked a bed for Piu. The BUDS transport took the clinic nurse, Piu and her mother to the hospital that would treat her for TB.
At BUDS, this is all in a day’s work. As a health service NGO, they have to be on the lookout for cases of neglect, abuse, malnutrition, chronic and infectious diseases, in the community and be ready to act. The diseases of poverty and neglect are heart-rending and need 360-degree management. BUDS counselors get to the root of the problem – in Piu’s situation – it was a combination of factors that led to such serious consequences. The medical team provides triage and treatment/referrals, the counsellors help the family cope. In Piu’s case food and a high-protein diet have to be provided, following her discharge, the family has to be persuaded to make some changes in the way they live. It is not enough to just provide skills and education ─ BUDS has to ensure that a healthy mind is enshrined in a healthy body.
Anita has been in touch with Piu and her mother. Although still in hospital and under treatment, Piu is very grateful for the swift action taken by BUDS team, to Dr. Seth for providing her with correct diagnosis and timely referral. “She told me that she is feeling slightly better”, said Anita.
Update 03-07-2021- The doctor’s are impressed with the recovery Piu’s making. We all wish her a speedy recovery!
At BUDS, we focus on charity efficiency. We make sure to optimize our internal processes so that we can maximise outcome from every dollar received. For less than 10 USD($) donated, you can feed and provide a health education to a child for one month...
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