Seventeen year old Muhammad Siraj
Chandio smiles and taps his foot nervously as he narrates his story. “Three
years ago, when I was fourteen, I started getting a fever and felt very weak. I
felt nauseous all the time and could barely walk. There were times when I would
faint. We went to a doctor nearby, here in Dadu, who gave me some medicines.
These didn’t help me at all and we ended up going to another doctor who said I
needed a blood transfusion. I had that done but I felt even worse after that,”
Siraj’s father who is a farmer,
brought him from Dadu to Hyderabad where the doctor they met advised them to go
to a hospital in Karachi as Siraj’s condition was deteriorating. “We came to
Karachi but the hospital we went to refused to admit me,” continues Siraj, “Eventually
we ended up at Aga Khan University Hospital.”
At AKUH, Siraj was seen to by Dr.
Zehra Fadoo, a paediatric hematologist who is also a Professor of Oncology. Dr.
Fadoo diagnosed Siraj as having lymphoid leukemia which affects a type of white
blood cells. “Dr. Fadoo was very kind. She told me she could help me and I
would be able to get treatment at AKUH,” says Siraj, “I stayed for nine months
in Karachi for chemotherapy sessions. It was a painful and challenging time. I
used to feel weak and nauseous after the chemotherapy sessions. Eventually though,
after what felt like an eternity, I was able to go home. I had to keep
returning at times to get additional medication and chemotherapy, but now it
has been four months since I have been able to stop all treatment. ”
Coming from an impoverished family,
there were concerns about how to afford the cost associated with
hospitalization and medication which came to a total of Rs. 1.8 million. Once
again, as in countless other cases, the Patient Welfare Programme stepped in to
help Siraj’s family with the financial aspect of the treatment. The Welfare
Department was able to cover the majority of Siraj’s treatment cost.
“Aga Khan University Hospital was wonderful.
It was spotlessly clean and everyone was so courteous. The doctors, nurses,
other staff, including the guards, were caring and polite. It didn’t matter to
them that we were receiving financial assistance for the treatment. They
treated all patients exactly the same regardless of their financial position in
society. Doctors and nurses would treat me the same as they would any other
patient in the ward,” Siraj reflects, “It was a complete contrast to the way we
were treated in some of the hospitals and clinics we went to previously, where
doctors would treat us badly and speak offensively to us.”
Siraj states, “I am very grateful
to have had the opportunity to be treated and cured at a world class facility
like AKUH where they have the greatest medical staff and where someone who is
not well off can also come to be treated. I am thankful to all the people who
give donations to AKUH and I encourage them to keep doing that so that people
like me have the opportunity to have our pain eased and our illnesses cured.”
“Unlike before, I can move around
freely now without any pain or weakness. I run around and play cricket,” Siraj
grins, hinting that the interview is over and that it is time for him to go out
and have some fun with his friends.