Thirteen-year-old Aisha smiles shyly
while sitting between her parents. Her father narrates how in 2015, Aisha, then
a fifth grader, started having a pain in her foot and began limping. She
started having frightening episodes where she would bleed from her nose, mouth
Aisha’s mother said, “Aisha used to be
so good at school and in her studies, but she became tired and lethargic. We
took her everywhere – to neighborhood clinics, to nearby hospitals – and received
no hope. We were told she has a white blood cell problem. For eight months Aisha
was in and out of hospitals, having blood transfusions, getting many tests done
and having various medicines given, but it made no difference.”
“The hospitals we went to treated us
so callously. Some wouldn’t even help us or admit her and would say things like
‘She won’t last even four days’”, continued Aisha’s mother. Eventually, the
family was told that Aisha would need chemotherapy and that she should be taken
to Aga Khan University Hospital to start treatment right away.
The family met Dr. Sadaf Altaf, a paediatric
hematologist-oncologist, who is an
Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology at Aga Khan University Hospital
(AKUH). Dr. Altaf said Aisha would need chemotherapy and was glad they came to
AKUH when they did because Aisha was very, very sick. The doctor said Aisha
would need to be admitted immediately and treatment had to begin at once.
“We wasted so much time going to other hospitals and other
doctors. We should have come straight to AKUH,” Aisha’s mother mentioned. “Only
here did they give us hope and treat Aisha properly. The doctors and other
medical staff worked so hard to save her and were so compassionate. Aisha was
close to death and they brought her back to us,” she continued.
Dr. Altaf told the family that Aisha
needed a bone marrow transplant. So Aisha’s elder brother was tested to see if
his bone marrow was a match for his sister, and luckily it was.
“The bone marrow transplant costs Rs. 3.5
million for the month-long process which we couldn’t afford,” said Aisha’s
father. “The Patient Welfare Department and the Patients’ Behbud Society for AKUH
helped me with the financial burden of this expensive treatment. Thanks to
their generosity, we were able to get Aisha admitted for the bone marrow
“I can’t tell you what a relief it was
to see Aisha’s health finally improve. I feel like AKUH is full of angels and I
constantly pray for the success of the doctors and nurses and other staff
there. Everyone from the
guard at the gate to the person at the information counter to the doctors and
nurses were so polite and kind to us. Also no one treated us any differently just
because we were getting financial assistance,” said Aisha’s mother.
With tears in her eyes, Aisha’s mother continued,
“Everyone is so compassionate at AKUH. The doctors and nurses would treat Aisha
like she was their own daughter. They would tell her stories and make her laugh
and cheer her up. Doctors would sit with her on the floor and draw and paint
with her. When Aisha lost all her hair, even her eyebrows and eyelashes, she
was so upset. The staff would comfort her and tell her she looks beautiful and
reassured her it will all grow back.”
It is hard to imagine the suffering Aisha endured over the last five years. Aisha beamed and said, "I'm much better now. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like I was so sick for so long. I left school when i was in Class 5, but I'm really looking forward to going back and starting again. I missed school and my studies and friends so much."