Srijal Rai is an 8-year-old boy from Kage Basti, a small village at Pedong in Kalimpong district. The area is quite hard to reach, without any healthcare facility and quite impoverished. His father, Ramesh Rai, works as daily wage laborer in the tea garden there and is considered to be below poverty level. His mother abandoned him when he was just 4 months old. One day, while playing, Srijal fell down. He didn't appear to be badly hurt and got up and resumed playing. A week later, Srijal was down with fever and couldn't stand up. The local Ayurved(alternate medicine) doctor was of the opinion that fever and malnutrition were the cause. Despite being unable to stand up, Srijal managed to drag himself around. But gradually, he loses all sensation downwards from his lower back and is unable even to sit up. Gangrene had already started to infest the lower part of his body, causing the loss of bowel and bladder control.
Not the one to give up hope, his father, Ramesh Rai took Srijal to the nearest Gramin Hospital(Rural Hospital), from where Srijan was sent to Kalimpong Hospital and later to Uttarbanga Medical College in Siliguri. While Srijan was admitted to each of these hospitals for a week or more, he did not receive any treatment in either. Stressing on the need for comprehensive treatment (as his situation was getting deteriorated every day) followed by surgery, which cannot be done at Uttarbanga Medical College, the doctors finally asks Mr Rai to take Srijal to SSKM Hospital, Kolkata.
But without any job for months, Mr Rai did not have the means to afford an ambulance, which would bring Srijal to Kolkata. In the couple months it took for Srijal to get a medical recommendation, without any actual treatment, the gangrene had spread extensively. The odour that emanated from his little body was testament enough. It was not possible to travel by train as the co-passengers would not allow such a patient due to the perceived risk of infection.
The bad news was that the prolonged delay in treatment had caused Srijal’s condition to turn life threatening. Now, the fight to save his life began. After a long series of tests, it finally came to light that Srijal had hurt his spine when had fallen down. Had he received prompt treatment, he might not have suffered this condition.
A medical team, comprising doctors from Neuro Medicine, Neuro Surgery, Paediatric Medicine, Plastic Surgery and Gastro Surgery was formed. Srijal was given four units of blood and had to undergo Colostomy to enable the lower back area to be properly dressed. The good news is that over this last month, he is now more or less out of life threatening danger. Now we are getting ready for surgeries and other procedures.
Srijal is not out of the woods yet–he runs a fever between 102 to 104 degrees at all times and tests have revealed severe infections in his blood. Srijal's road to recovery is long and hard. What makes it even more of an uphill task is the huge cost of the surgery, procedures, treatment and rehabilitation Srijal will require for many months going forward. This also means Srijal's father will have to stay with him in Kolkata for the duration of the treatment and rehabilitation, without any means of livelihood.
But Srijal is a brave little boy–when he arrived in NRS in January, we couldn’t bear to witness the pain he was going through, much less imagine his agony. The doctors were not sure if he would survive. Not only did he survive, battling immense pain, he also learned couple of new languages, Hindi and Bengali! Whenever he sees us, his face lights up and he starts to chat–initially it was in Nepali–now, his conversation is interjected with short Hindi and Bengali words learnt from Papia, one of our volunteers responsible for NRS patients. He has also taught Papia few Nepali songs! J
And his father Mr Rai is an example of what extreme situations a parent can go for his child. He is out of work for several months, has exhausted all his savings, and in absence of Srijal’s mother, he is both the mother and the father of the child. We have obtained permission from the hospital authority, so that he can stay with Srijal. He sleeps on the floor next to Srijal’s bed and does double duty as a nurse as we cannot afford private nurse for Srijal. After traveling so far to an alien metropolitan city (it’s his first visit to Kolkata), tending to Srijal day and night like a mother and an experienced nurse, he is determined not to give up on his son.
Will end this appeal with a small anecdote from yesterday–Due to a renovation work in the Plastic Surgery ward, all patients, including Srijal, were transferred to a small, closed part of the ward. With already soaring temperatures in Kolkata and without any fan, Srijal couldn’t sleep that night, causing his fever to spike. What was more worrying was the sweat and dust, which caused the wound to degrade. So we bought a table fan for him. Just look at his smile (in the attached picture)! He even started to sing!!! He is such a cheerful boy and so thankful for all these small things!!!
I am sure, we all want to see him smiling like this in the days to come .
Please help this brave little boy and his father–they need you now !!!