16-year-old's Belief In Period Taboo Delayed Diagnosis Of Her | Milaap
16-year-old's Belief In Period Taboo Delayed Diagnosis Of Her Disease
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    from Bangalore, Karnataka


You would never think that a 16-year-old going to a school in Bengaluru’s busiest neighborhood, would consider menstruation to be a taboo. When Harshitha was growing up, it was against norms to talk about a period. Her parents never imagined it could be the reason her illness went unnoticed. The same illness which has her on the hospital bed for over a month. If they had rushed to the doctor sooner, there would have been more time for treatment. Now, with her condition deteriorating, the family has just under two weeks for a bone marrow transplant.

She was laughing and dancing on Saturday, and had to be admitted to the ICU on Sunday

“Over 4 weeks ago, the day after her Annual School day, she woke up with a smile, dancing around. I saw her run to the bathroom to vomit, and then she just fainted. Her lips were very pale and we surmised it must be anemia.” - Shankara (father)
At the hospital, blood workup showed that Harshitha’s hemoglobin level was dangerously low. Her platelet count was around 6,000 when it should have been at least 150,000. She was admitted to the ICU. Harshitha was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. Her body is not making enough blood and she needs a bone marrow transplant.

Harshita saw the signs but never told her parents because she believed period to be a taboo

“Harshitha thinks a virus is responsible for her anemia and that she will be fine in a few weeks. A neighbor’s child told my wife, Malligeshwari, last week that Harshitha had an unusually heavy period that has left her feeling extremely fatigued since November. She was embarrassed to talk about it. Looking back, I can hear her saying she had terrible cramps but I dismissed it.”

Shankara sought out government hospitals that could offer him treatment. He was distraught when doctors told him to forget about saving her since the disease cannot be cured. They suggested that he should focus on his healthy children. After a lot of research, he discovered that over 1000 children have had successful bone marrow transplants at NH. He believes this treatment can save his little girl.

Help has been pouring in but this family needs more to treat their daughter

Shankara, a saree weaver from Weaver’s Colony, was making Rs. 150-250 per saree until last month. Ever since admitting Harshitha, he has not made a single rupee. Thankfully, his friends and family helped him pay bills amounting to Rs. 3.5 Lakhs so far. Harshitha’s school headmistress is also crowdfunding with the help of students in the school to pay for her treatment.

“I still have a bill of Rs. 1.5 Lakhs to pay. It has been over a month in the hospital and every day our medical expenses amount to Rs. 8000. Yes, the people we know have been helping us but this treatment will cost us Rs. 23 lakhs. I cannot afford that and without it, she cannot have her transplant. The hospital helped set up a fundraiser and we can only pray for help to come.”

There is now a match in the donor registry, and tests are underway to evaluate as well as prepare Harshitha for a transplant. All this family needs now is the means to make it happen.

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