Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

A very personalised account of inequities in the healthcare sector

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My story…

It’s midnight on  a cold winter night and  I am alone in my hotel room in Delhi .   I wake up feeling my body is on fire.  I throw off the blankets, switch off the heater and feel better and sleep restlessly for a bit after that.  Very early the following morning, I wake up with all my joints, my head and every part of the body that can ache, making their presence felt.

Groan!! I think of the gruelling day and the travel ahead.  So I down some OTC painkillers (quite indiscriminately) and go on till the end of the day when the shivers and the ‘fire in the body’ make their vengeful appearance again.   Then I know something’s wrong.  Luckily I am home by this time. The next morning I weigh my options.  I have my friendly neighbourhood doctor who will be happy to see me; I have an ethical hospital close to my house and their outpatient department is fairly good; doctors are friendly and tests if required can be done on the premises.  I choose the latter because I know this is more than just a simple ‘cough and cold’.

The doctor sees me and prescribes some tests, a chest x-ray and some.  Then she gives me medication and sends me home with the reassurance that nothing serious is wrong but I can expect it to take some days before I feel better.  So far so good. I come home and choose the food I want to eat.  The next morning sees me worse off.  I call my office and tell them I can’t come in to work for a bit.  I have no worries about losing wages.   But I am not feeling up to going to the hospital for my tests.  I am just too tired.  So I call and tell them to come home. They do, and in the comfort of my home, I have all the samples collected for the tests.  The results come to me by email and I go see the doctor who says I am better but will need more time to recover fully.

I am not rich – I don’t know if I even fit into India’s middle class that has so much spending power.  This whole experience has cost me Rs 1800/-.  The returns for this are that I will be cured without too much discomfort and heartbreak.

Bakku Singh Baiga’s story…

Bakku has come to Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Ganiyari, Bilaspur district from Dindori district in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh with a lot of hope.  He is 65, weighs 37 kg and is severely anaemic to boot.  He is unable to work after an accident in which he lost his left arm but gets some form of work about 3-4 days a week.  Bakku and his family eat well only part of the month for as long as the subsidised rice he gets, lasts.  After that, they just make do.

Bakku has been diagnosed with TB.  What are the options he had for relief?  He went to the local government facility where he lives but got no relief.  Somebody told him that at JSS he would find a cure for his problem and so his wife and he travelled over 100 km by bus to reach there.  He is a very sick man and one wonders how he withstood the journey, especially considering that their only thought was to reach JSS, for which they had borrowed money but had not thought of any other expenses such as food.  But he is lucky he is in safe hands.

At JSS, owing to the flood of patients who come seeking treatment (many of them even more sick than Bakku), he has to wait for a day for his turn.  He and his wife sleep out in the open and when I ask what they have eaten, Bakku and his wife look away.   I feel ashamed of my question. What gave me the right to ask such an undignified question I wonder.  Bakku and his wife also know that for the duration they are away from home, they will lose wages – a situation they can ill afford.

I don’t know whether Bakku will survive.  He is very sick.  But I am worried for him either way.  If he survives (which I hope he does, just based on the cheerful twinkle in his eyes despite what he is going through), he will go back to a debt that he will be repaying for the rest of his life.  If by some unfortunate circumstance he does not survive, his family will be left to repay the debt and on and on and on.

So what has India done for people like Bakku?  At a time when we see political parties squabbling about what each has done for the aam admi (common man), people like Bakku are struggling for basics – food and health.

Should we not hang our heads in shame? 

After all, if someone as aam as me can have options, how much does it take to take development a little deeper?  How much effort and commitment must it take to create easier options for Bakku?  And actually tell Bakku that the twinkle in his eyes won’t go in vain?

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

December 21, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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