Punam was 4 months old when her parents discovered she had a cardiac problem. 9 years old, this little girl has been fighting the longest and most terrifying battle of her life. Her parents have gone to every corner of the country to find a cure for their daughter. Now, Punam has a chance at a long healthy life, but the cost is unaffordable to these parents who live on Rs. 2500/month income.
Anup Das and his wife Bindu live in one of the low-income pockets of Kolkatta. Although Anup’s income from his job at a ration store is very meager, he took up other odd jobs a few times to source a few hundred rupees for the household. When their daughter Punam was born, this family was engulfed in joy. 4 months later, Punam came down with a cold and fever when a local medical college diagnosed her with a heart disease. She got on medication again to manage the problem.
“When she was 5, we realized that the medicine was not helping. She began to faint even if she walked a few steps. She kept falling sick frequently. Although we consulted local doctors, nobody really helped us. So, we booked a train and went to a hospital in Bangalore. The doctors there said her condition was extremely critical and the age made it difficult to operate on her. We have been turned away not just from there but another hospital in Andhra which also said she had to be on a waiting list for 12-13 years. They did not think she had that much time.”
Punam’s case was referred to a local doctor for a follow-up and she got back on medical management. Meanwhile, a few patients Bindu encountered suggested Manipal as an option for Punam. Luckily, doctors at Manipal were at a camp in West Bengal. A consultation urged Bindu to prioritize Punam’s health and think about funding later, as Punam’s condition was deteriorating.
“The doctor evaluated her condition and said it was too late, that if we had come to Manipal when we were in Bangalore long ago, we could have avoided all these complications. He ran a few tests to see if Punam was eligible for surgery and if she had a shot at life. We must thank our graces. The doctor returned with hopeful news. She has a good chance at recovering from this condition if we go for the surgery as soon as possible. But reality hit us right then. Funds.”
Unfortunately, Rs. 4.35 lakh is a price the family is unable to afford on their current income. They had to take loans from friends and family, sell what little assets they possessed to fulfill Rs. 40,000 worth medical bills in Bangalore, Puttaparthi and Kolkata. They are currently scrambling around for funds without anyone to help.
“We send Punam to a school nearby. She is in 1st class. The teachers understand her condition and do not pressure her. It is just so that she does not get lazy or throw tantrums. She should also get in the groove of going to school and not feel sick all the time. But, I must keep an eye on her like a hawk. If she walks a few too many steps, Punam faints or needs to sleep for a while. She turns hypoxic every now and then. She has a fever every week and over-the-counter medicines never help her. We must go to the doctor for heavier doses. I cannot allow her to play with other children because she’d contract infections or get exhausted very soon.”
It has been a difficult childhood for Punam. She has not been able to enjoy her life like children should. She gets angry at times and expresses everything to her mother. She often wonders why there are so many restrictions on her and not the other children. Yes, Punam is aware of her condition, but she is also a strong-minded child who comforts her mother and says, “I’m going to get better. God is with me.”
Prove Punam right. Give her the childhood and the life she never had. Help this child get the surgery that can save her life and add healthy years.