On day one of my fellowship, my biggest apprehension was that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of dealing with families of really sick people. I needed to be strong in the face of their suffering, helplessness and tears. But by day three, the situation had been turned around. As it turned out, the first medical campaign I needed to follow up on left me inspired rather than heavy-hearted.
The case involved a single mother, struggling to save her one-year-old baby. The visit to her showed me that more than money, what one needs is the strength to fight whatever may come. Finances are important, but you first need the courage to believe that it is possible that things will get better one day.
That was the courage this single mother showed. She was raising over Rs 10 lakhs for her baby's treatment. And this when she earns only Rs 2,500 for herself and her two children. As an educated person with a decent salary, it scares me to think of raising a sum like Rs 10 lakhs, and a single mother who worked as domestic help was doing it all by herself, taking all the help she could receive. It makes you understand that what seems impossible to you, is what someone else in an even tougher spot is going through right in front of your eyes.
Mother of baby Akshaya struggling to raise funds for her sick child
On day two, the question I had grapple with was ‘What do you do when you see an injured stray animal?’ Until that day, it was call animal services for help. That’s where it stopped for me and I call myself an animal lover. I see an injured dog/cow and my first instinct would be to feel sorry for it and then see if someone else does something about it. If nobody helps, then call animal services for help.
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Then day two happened, and I met a young guy who barely had money to pay for auto but has rescued an injured dog from the streets and was going to vet after vet to find a place with treatment and shelter. The dog had fractured its ribs in an accident. Unable to move, it just ate, drank water and laid down. Hospitals agreed to treat the dog for free but there was no shelter where it could rest and recover.
It was almost night when I met this person looking for a shelter. I put him in touch with organizations that could help and offered him some money for the dog, tulsi's transportation. But what more should I do?
A rescued injured cat at animal shelter in AWPT, Chennai (Representational Image)
This was a person with so less money, he couldn't afford an auto ride. He was carrying around the dog the whole day fighting to save it. As someone who could comfortably afford the expenses, I still wouldn’t have done what this man did and I do not know why. I realized that my understanding of 'help' all these years might have been lacking. Help is not just given when convenient, you help even when it is not.
On day three, I met a young guy in his twenties. He was bedridden now, but until his illness was a passionate footballer. Reading about him on the way to his house made me tear-up but I had to smile and talk when I met him. After the money was raised, the miracle hadn't happened. Lulu wasn't magically cured and begin walking. He was still undergoing treatment and the progress was slow. He was doing his best to stay positive.
He blushed when we spoke about someone he had a crush on. He waved enthusiastically when we talked about his favorite team. He smiled and smiled all the while. His mother persistently said they weren't giving up till the day he walks again. In a world bogged down by insecurity, this family remains firm in their belief that things will get better.
Lulu, the positive champ.
I had thought that the more heart-wrenching cases I would see, the more pessimistic I would become. How untrue!
Meeting someone who is struggling beyond tears and surviving with strength and dignity opened my eyes. That’s the kind of inspiration that opens your eyes a world of strength and struggle which seemed impossible before.
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