As I walked into the emergency, the sight I saw was chaotic. One elderly lady who had been brought dead was being taken out of the emergency. There was a very young girl, probably less than 20 undergoing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. There were two other children quite sick on oxygen and support.
Two Doctors were struggling hard to resuscitate this young girl. Her heart rate was less than 30, she had no spontaneous breathing and was brought in just then referred from another center. I joined the team and tried our best with various methodologies of resuscitation for more than one hour, but she succumbed to the cardiac event she had suffered by ingesting Aluminum Phosphide, a deadly poison. She looked very young and innocent. And we had no idea what had prompted her to take this drastic step. A few minutes later as we were explaining to the family, the nurse in charge pulled me aside and told me the story. This nurse, while we were trying to resuscitate the girl, was talking to the father and helping him to understand the seriousness, and in that process, had heard the story.
Her marriage as fixed one year back. The boy’s family agreed for a marriage 6 to 8 months later and asked for 25 Lacs of NC (equivalent to 18 Lacks IC) to fix the marriage. And they had given the same. And subsequently boy’s side would give some excuse or other and delay the marriage, 2 days back, girl’s father had contacted the boy’s family again and they had asked for a delay of three months more. They also indicated that they will need more money before the marriage. The girl had overheard the conversation and cried and told her parents to call off the marriage. Her point was, if before marriage, this is how they are treating us, I do not know how will treat me, please call the marriage off. Father had told, it is not possible since money is already given and their status in the community had to be protected. She heart broken, decided to end her life……
Upper middle class, possibly educated family and girl but with no voice for a girl, in a man dominated, status driven, image protecting context and culture.
The next day in OPD a 14-year-old boy came to us. On ante retroviral therapy for four years, he had started getting fever and was losing weight. We evaluated him for infections and found him to be having disseminated TB, a sign of ART failing perhaps? In the discussions around treatment and cost issues, their family story emerged.
While his mother went out to get drugs, some of our doctors had a conversation with him. He seemed quite detached and silent for his age, but we could sense the desire he had to study and be like his other brothers who were studying and working.
We decided to reprimand the mother and the man who accompanied her, regarding taking him out of school. And it was when we started talking to her that the above story came out.
Father died 4 years back following a HIV late stage infection. He had contracted it while in Delhi and had passed on the same to his wife, and this son. Surprisingly though he was the second of 5 brothers, all the other four were spared, only he was infected. Doing well in school, in class 3 (at 10 year of age) his life started going down a spiral. He started falling ill, had to be initiated on ART and then due to the frequent visits to hospital, he had to be taken out of school.
After the death of her husband, the disease was not told to anyone else in the village, she had to move out of her village, bring up 5 sons alone, get her self-treated for her HIV illness, get her some treated, all the while keeping their disease story away from others. She had her father, who was accompanying her and he said, it is my daughter and her children, I will somehow support her and care for her children.
Uneducated, lower socio economic family, the lady of the house struggling alone to take care of her family of 5 children supported by her aging father after contracting an incurable illness and being rejected by her village, for no fault of hers…..
Women bearing the brunt of issues emerging out of marriage, dowry, culture and customs related practices, behavioral related illnesses. Stories that never capture anyone’s attention…..Would these capture our heart? I am sure it reaches God’s heart….