Mridul Bhattacharjee is a 24-year-old final year engineering student with acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer). He has a good chance of recovery if he can get the treatment in time. With no family support, his friend and two of his professors at college have put aside everything to make sure he gets the treatment he needs.
Meeting a mentor
Mridul came to the attention of Professor Kalyan Kumar Banerjee in his second year due to his irregular attendance. When he was called up for a meeting, the last thing Mridul expected was a willingness to listen from the Pro Vice-Chancellor of his university.
“When I asked him about his attendance, Mridul confided in me. Mridul was working part-time to financially support his family. His father, a contract labourer at Tata Steel did not make enough and his mother was too frail. It fell to Mridul to make ends meet. He couldn’t focus on studies,” explains Professor Kalyan. After that, he met Mridul regularly to talk him and help him improve his grades.
Mridul in happier days
Mridul kept in touch with him even after the professor left the university. In his darkest hour, Mridul called him for guidance. “Mridul told me he had not been feeling well lately. I got a call from him when he was in Vellore with his school friend Shashi. He had just been diagnosed with Cancer,” he says.
Since he didn't have money, Mridul had been abruptly discharged from the hospital in Vellore. Very sick and with no money, he called his teacher asking him what he could do next. Professor Kalyan advised Mridul to go to Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai where he could get subsidised treatment.
At Tata Memorial, Professor Kalyan made sure Mridul was admitted and then paid Rs 4 lakhs from his own savings to begin Mridul's treatment.
A friend in need
Mridul met Shashi Pandey at a tuition class after school in class 9. Both did their schooling in Jamshedpur and went to Orissa for further studies. Shashi really values Mridul's honesty and simplicity. They met up often and it was Shashi who first noticed that something was really wrong with Mridul’s health.
Mridul (right) and Shashi at the beach
Mridul's father had suddenly passed away due to a stomach infection. His mother was in shock and even took drastic steps in her depression. Mridul needed to support her financially and mentally. Nobody saw Mridul regularly except for Shashi. Shashi agreed to accompany Mridul to Vellore when doctors in Jamshedpur and Bhubaneshwar could not diagnose it. He pitched in when Mridul ran out of money and took him to Mumbai when it became necessary.
He explains matter-of-factly, "There is no one from his family who can or will do this. It looks like I might need to stay here for the next few months till Mridul gets better.” Shashi is the stoic one who will do what needs to be done. He tells Mridul's frail mother and even Mridul only as much as they can handle. He asks angry relatives who complain about medical expenses to stop visiting. He calms his parents when they call him anxiously, demanding he return home.
“My father gets upset that I am not at home handling our business. Then I tell him about Mridul and he calms down. My parents know Mridul. He's been coming over for years. They are not happy, but they see that he needs me here,” Shashi explains.
The teacher who decided to step in
Professor Sangram feels that it is the teacher's duty to step into whatever role is necessary. “At the moment, Mridul has zero support from his family. As his teacher, now I need to step in and provide the kind of time and support family members can provide,” he says.
Remembering Mridul as a well-mannered, shy student, Professor Sangram mobilised the community at Centurion University, where Mridul studies. He got students to donate and requested the staff members to forego a day's salary.
He raised Rs 78,000 for Mridul's treatment. “Everyone came together and raised money. Our student network brought 40 students from IIT-Bombay, to donate enough blood for Mridul. There is a support system in place for Mridul. All we need is money for his treatment for the next six months,” he says.
It is a very difficult and emotional time for Mridul. His father passed away recently, and he is worried about his mother and finances. He is alone and burdened by very difficult circumstances. His friends and teachers are the only ones who give him the hope to carry on.
But all the efforts made will be for nothing if he doesn't receive treatment due to the lack of funds. He needs four cycles of chemotherapy followed by blood transfusions for the next six months.
The specifics of this case have been verified by the medical team at the concerned hospital. For any clarification on the treatment or associated costs, click here to contact the campaign organizer or the medical team.
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