The 17-year old Shehnaz with her
parents who have been staying outside the canteen AIIMS for
the last 40 days.
New Delhi: Surrounded
by hundreds of stretchers and anxious patients outside the
bustling OPD canteen of the All India Institute of Medical
Sciences (AIIMS) here, 17-year-old Shehnaz lies under the open sky
on a sunny afternoon.
She smiles at every passer-by who cares to look at her bony
structure, protruding jaws, sunken eyes, and a skin that has
turned dark blue after years of battling with bone tuberculosis.
After spending 40 days outside the AIIMS campus, her parents are
busy packing a set of blanket and pillows to leave for Patna. The
faint flicker of hope that came the family's way faded Saturday
afternoon when doctors at the premier health institute told them
to take Shehnaz away because there was "no hope left for her
"She has been under treatment at AIIMS since 2002. She had
tuberculosis (TB) in the lungs. Later, doctors said it was chronic
bone tuberculosis. The infection has spread to the entire body...
doctors today said she may die soon, so it is better we take her
back home," her father Kamruddin, 50, says.
"Ab shayad kuchh nahi ho sakta... (Maybe nothing can happen now),"
the crestfallen fruit vendor from Khagol village in Patna told
IANS. He clutches all treatment-related documents and reports in
his left hand, while holding his daughter's arm with his other
Shehnaz does not speak, only smiles and listens closely to all
that happens around her. She weighs just 15 kgs and left school in
2002. Her white-and-pink bedsheet, infested with flies, tells the
tale of the last 40 days.
"We came to Delhi Sep 12. Since then, we have been spending days
either in the toilet or outside the canteen. Thankfully, we got a
stretcher when we came, and nobody asks for it, considering
Shehnaz's condition," Kamruddin said, adding that "the wards were
He is under a heavy debt after spending nearly Rs.5 lakh on the
treatment. His house and farm land were sold to pay medicine bills
a long time back. The family stays in a rented house now.
The family's agony began in 1999 after Shehnaz, then studying in
Class 3 of a local school, was diagnosed with lung TB. For around
three years, she was admitted at the Patna Medical College and
Hospital (PMCH), after which she was referred to AIIMS.
Since 2002, Shehnaz has been visiting AIIMS every three months.
Shenaz's mother Asha feeds her khichdi while Kamruddin narrated
the family's journey from Patna to New Delhi. But the frail Asha
soon steps in to say there have been some "joyful moments" in
"When she was under the medical observation of a pediatrician in
AIIMS, she showed tremendous signs of improvement. After some
time, she was referred to two other doctors, who ruined the case,"
Asha said, wiping her daughter's face with her saree's pallu.
She said Shehnaz was never referred to a specialised department.
"We visited pediatrics and medicine OPD (out patient department).
Otherwise, nobody referred us to any specialised department. We
don't even know what exactly is bone TB," Asha told IANS.
Bone TB, likely to attack spine and ends of long bones, may even
cause paralysis in the lower half of the body. Children are
especially prone to spinal tuberculosis even as 5-10 percent of TB
patients suffer from this type of the disease.
Shehnaz gestures towards her father to show this correspondent her
picture which he carries in his pocket. Kamruddin says she does
that whenever there is someone to meet her at the hospital gate.
"It is hard to recognise she is the same girl who always spoke of
becoming a teacher and educating children back in the village
school," he said, slowly putting her medical papers back in his
(Madhulika Sonkar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)