Real story about a father's struggle to get his cancer afflicted son treated.
He wants his son to live; he peddled eighty miles to make it happen!
Sanjay brought his weeping son on his hips to my clinic in mid April. I work as sole medical oncologist in government cancer hospital, in one of the poorest state in India, Bihar. His son Golu had a visible large 'melon-size' lump disfiguring his belly. His pale, puckered face with wide anxious wet eyes spoke about the agony this four year old malnourished child was suffering. He was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma. After receiving pre-phase chemotherapy, Sanjay promised to bring Golu again in two weeks.
In third week of May I saw Golu again, walking by self with charming smile and impish look. His tumour was gone and he looked better fed. With crisis now settled, I asked Sanjay as how he brought his son amidst lockdown for treatment. He said he started from home at 6 AM on a bicycle with Golu sitting pillion and pedalled forty miles in scorching summer Sun to make his way here stumbling often on bumpy, potholed country roads. I jumped off my chair spilling chilled drink which I was merrily sipping, cushioned in my air-conditioned office. First, I thought I misheard or misinterpreted his narration. He added, last time he hired a private ambulance worth more than his month's income to escort his ailing son to our hospital. As no buses, trains or private vehicles were allowed to ply, desperate patients had resorted to hire private ambulances at thrice the cost to avail even basic health needs.
The problem was further compounded by abrupt closure of several small remote clinics fearing COVID-19 outbreak. ' Social isolation' adopted by others, more as a mode of 'self- preservation' to avoid contact from any sick human, irrespective of nature of ailments, made beckoning help from neighbours even more difficult. A week back, Sanjay's valiant attempt to bring Golu to my clinic in State Capital from his village proved futile as patrolling cops shovelled them back home as they were compelled to rigorously follow strict 'lockdown protocols' to combat the pandemic. This time he pleaded more than an hour showing treatment papers to police who finally relented to make an 'exception' and allowed him to carry his son across district border for treatment.
After receiving definitive chemotherapy with many more cycles yet to come, Sanjay promised to bring Golu for treatment, somehow again. Sanjay is illiterate, he never went to school, but his wisdom is not inferior to any man. He just wants to save his only son's life at whatever cost, which he can and is allowed to bear, in still prevailing COVID-19 lockdown.
He finally peddled on his rusted bicycle with worn out seat, back to his distant village with Golu, both oblivious to what worse the future may bring !
Dr. Avinash Pandey
Assistant Professor and In-charge,
Medical Oncology, State Cancer Institute