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The Horrifying Story Of How Medical Negligence Almost Killed My Husband

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Fifteen days ago, my husband started showing symptoms of a viral fever. Since I myself was suffering from a common cold, I assumed that he had simply caught the infection from me. But two days later, his fever increased and he started showing symptoms of malaria – high fever, chills, shivering, headache and although it is not a symptom of malaria – vomiting as well. I live in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai and the doctors and hospitals here are so bad, I am surprised they haven’t been shut down yet.

My immediate reaction was to take him to a popular hospital in Vashi, not because I think the hospital is good but because I personally know a very good doctor who consults there. After a lifetime of illnesses, I have become extremely suspicious of the medical community and have developed an instinct to sniff out good doctors and can almost always tell whether a doctor is competent or not. However, due to a series of unfortunate events, the matter of my husband’s health and well-being was taken from my hands and despite my strenuous objections, he was admitted to another hospital in Belapur.

I would like to digress a little here because I want to highlight something important. Women are generally not taken seriously. It is assumed that a woman is highly emotional and cannot function efficiently in high-pressure situations. She is considered irrational and thus her ability to take decisions is considered suspect. In most households, the opinions of women are largely ignored and it is the men who like to take charge – irrespective of their ability to take sound and sensible decisions.

Something of this sort transpired in my case as well. All my objections and concerns were disregarded and it was not thought necessary to consult with me before decisions were made. Without my husband there to defend me, I was left alone – terrified at the thought of what would happen next. I did not trust the doctors at this hospital and I seriously doubted their ability to effectively diagnose my husband’s condition. My apprehensions were justified when I witnessed the incompetence of the two doctors who were present at the time. Even after the admittance process was completed, I kept insisting that we cancel the admission, ask for a discharge and move him to the hospital in Vashi. But my pleas fell upon deaf ears and I was once again ignored. This typical male ego would have cost my husband his life. Everyday sexism when encountered during emergency situations where all counsel and wisdom is snubbed off just because it comes from a woman can be downright dangerous. This experience with sexism specifically has infuriated me beyond measure.

By this time, my husband’s health had considerably deteriorated. His blood reports were negative for dengue and falciparum and we had no idea as to what was wrong with him.

The doctors at the hospital in Belapur disregarded my suspicions about malaria, despite my insistence. They suspected hepatitis A and called for a liver function test. Since my husband tested positive for hepatitis A, the doctor treating him stopped further investigations and disregarded his other symptoms. They were right about the hepatitis A but only partly. And that’s when I almost lost my husband. I was not allowed to stay at the hospital with my husband despite the fact that I am the only one in the family who is a little medically literate. So when his test results arrived, I was absent and when I arrived, it was not thought necessary to inform me about the results of his test.

Fortunately I was present when they wheeled him out to do a sonography and what was even more fortunate was that I insisted that I be allowed to observe his urine (something that I believe the hospital should have monitored). The radiologist told me that he had swollen kidneys, spleen and liver. With what the radiologist had informed me and the colour of his urine which was reddish brown, I started suspecting that his symptoms were not merely that of a hepatitis A patient – something was wrong. I then insisted on checking his liver function test reports. At that point, I was not familiar with hepatitis A and had no idea what kind of ‘abnormal’ is normal for this disease.

I immediately took a picture of the report (which was hand written) and sent it to a cousin of mine (who is not a doctor but a social worker who has been awarded for his work with kidney failure patients). He is the one who alerted me as to the seriousness of my husband’s condition. He informed me that his liver enzymes which are denoted thus – ‘SgoT’ and ‘SgoP’ – were extremely high than what was considered normal. The normal range is supposed to be within 40. My husband’s were 2500 and 2600 respectively. The next stage would have been liver failure.

My husband should have been in the ICU but the doctor who was treating him at the hospital in Belapur had kept him in a room with no monitoring equipment, no emergency life support, no availability of trained personnel and no warning to the family members as to the seriousness of his condition. He was left in a room with just a simple IV drip attached to his arm and was being treated for a fraction of what his actual medical condition truly required.

This is the moment when I put my foot down and demand that my husband be moved to the hospital in Vashi immediately. Thankfully, my panic combined with extreme anger did what my reasonable arguments could not and I was able to take over the decision-making process. I did exactly what I knew I should have done all along. I packed up all our stuff, got my husband out of the hospital clothes and waited with growing impatience for the hospital to give us his test reports (which they refused to offer).

My husband’s condition was serious and it was imperative to get him to the other hospital as soon as possible – something that I believe this hospital staff should have understood and helped facilitate a speedy discharge. But that was not the case. We were held there because they could not locate a INR 200 remote control for the television that they had provided in the special room that was allocated to my husband. I could not believe it – the life of my husband hung in the balance because they could not find their worthless TV remote! I still cannot believe it.

It was lucky that we had access to a car and were not dependent on the hospital to provide us with an ambulance. One of us waited back to sort out the remote control issue and I drove like a crazy person to the hospital in Vashi where luckily they were waiting for us – since I had already spoken to the doctors there and alerted them as to the condition of the patient.

Since this hospital in Belapur had refused to give us the medical reports, the doctors at Vashi had nothing to go on. Luckily, I still had the photographs of the liver function test with me and I promptly WhatsApp-ed those to the doctor. Upon seeing the reports, I was asked to make an immediate payment INR 85,000 so that my husband could be shifted to the ICU as soon as possible.  I keep thinking, what do people who do not have this kind of money do during times like these? If quality care can only be accessed at such high-end hospitals, where are the lesser privileged supposed to go? It was incredibly lucky that my husband’s family had access to sufficient funds – I shiver to think what would have happened if we didn’t. In no time, he was transferred to the ICU and he remained there for the next four days. I still turn cold every time I think about what would have happened if I had not sent those reports to my cousin when I did.

As it transpired, my husband had contracted hepatitis A and dengue at the same time. It was an unfortunate coincidence. The doctors at this hospital were able to diagnose and treat my husband for both the ailments. I was later on informed that my husband’s case was a rare one and had I delayed even a little in getting him to the ICU, they would not have been able to save him. The timely care that was provided at this hospital by their nursing staff was outstanding. Their treatment plan and systematic approach towards serious medical illnesses was at least in this case, unparalleled.

The previous hospital was not only unable to diagnose a major life threatening illness but they downplayed a very serious condition that was deteriorating continually. The hospital lacks the infrastructure and the expertise to deal with serious cases and should have alerted us regarding these issues. They should have counseled us to transfer our patient to a healthcare provider that was better equipped to handle our case. They failed on all counts. It is partly out of extreme anger and partly out of desire to warn others regarding this hospital in Belapur that I have written this article. It has now been approximately one week since my husband was discharged. He has not yet recovered, but thanks to the two amazing doctors at the hospital in Vashi, is on a sure road to recuperation.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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