Todayas I opened my Facebook profile, i saw a status message by Shilpa Garg, a blogger friend,on worldwide cancer awareness day. It reminded me of an incident that tookplace about a year ago. Today I would like to share with you the story of Ram (namechanged), my very good friend and colleague. I should have come up with this post much earlier, but then, better late than never.
Ram’smother developed a cancer in her gall bladder. I got to know this only when Imet Ram in the cab when he came back from a 2 week long leave. Till then wewere only told that his mother was unwell. When I met Ram that day and askedhim about his mother, he started crying. I was shocked and immediately started consolinghim and asked him what’s wrong. That’s when he told me about his mother’sproblem. Cancer in the gall bladder is one of the rarest forms of cancer andthe chemo therapy available for this is still in its trial phases. However thecurrent treatment consisted of six cycles of therapy and each cycle cost himaround Rs 50,000. The overall cost went way above Rs 6,00,000. Ram earnedaround the same salary as I did, which is around Rs 25,000 a month. He doesn’t havea father and supports not just his mother but also his younger siblings. When Isaw him cry that day I could see the emotional stress and trauma on his face. Hefelt completely helpless. He somehow arranged the whole cash through hissavings, loans and help from all of us. He couldn’t claim much from his healthinsurance as a patient needs to be admitted for him/her to eligible forinsurance.
Thewhole treatment was over in about six months. Things were fine he said, afterthe whole treatment. Two months later I met him again and the first thing Iasked him was about his mother. The whole treatment had failed he said. Thedoctor gave her another month to live. The doctors had said her life can beprolonged by a few months if she was given 2 injections both costing another Rs50000 each. As a dying wish, Ram’s mother wanted to see him getting married andRam wanted that wish to come true. Left with no financial options now, Ram didn’tknow what to do.
Ispoke to my cousin if she knew any NGO that could help us out and she got me intouch with CanSupport is an organization in Delhi. CanSupport run palliativecare services, free of cost, for people with advanced and terminal cancer, withour home care teams of doctors, nurses and counsellors visiting them in theirhomes. They also have a helpline that helps people with any queries that theymay have on cancer. I gave them a call and asked them if they knew from where Icould get financial assistance for my friend’s mother’s treatment. They informedme that I could go to the prime minister’s relief fund. When I checked the websitefor the prime minister’s relief fund, it was clearly mentioned there that thesupport is provided the deprived and the under privileged. That definitely didn’tinclude an IT employee.
All his friends including me started collectingmoney from everyone we knew and used up all the contacts that we had inAccenture. We started off by sending mailer to everybody and asking them toforward it to whoever they knew. We even went out there and spoke to their teamspersonally and asked them to donate as much as they could. By the next morningwe had Rs 96000 collected and this was sufficient for the treatment. The nextday when I met Ram and saw a sense of relief on his face, I can’t tell you howgreat it felt. After the injections were given, I met him a week later. He hadtears in his eyes again. The only difference was that this time they were tearsof satisfaction. I still can’t forget what he said that day. He said “For thefirst time in 8 months I have seen my mother walk. When she scolded my sister,I actually felt so good, coz that was the normal person she was. Today for thefirst time in 8 months she cooked for me.” I had tears in my eyes listening tothat. His mother passed away 4 months later.
Thiswhole episode just showed me how difficult it was for a middle class man to gethimself/his family members treated. There are loads of organizations todaywhich help the poor society but none that can help the middle class, whorequire kelp too. I had decided that day to set up an organization that will helpthe middle class society financially and would eventually work towards makinghealthcare affordable to each every person whatever class he may come from. I anda friend did come up a couple of ideas of how to go about this but they werevery vague.Atfirst we thought of opening up a fund in our company where people could donatesome money every month and we could have a fund collected. Later after speakingto another friend I thought starting something like a insurance which would berun on a non profit basis. I am still exploring ways to start this. It would be great if you guys can pour inwith you ideas too.
P.S. Please come up with whatever suggestions you can, no matter what they may be. Also please share you stories either here or on you blogs, to increase awareness.