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 remembers.
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 the 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 in Karachi for nine months 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 hospitalisation and medication which came to a total of Rs. 1.8 million. Once again, as in countless other cases, the Patient Welfare Programme at AKUH stepped in to help Siraj’s family with the financial aspect of the treatment. The Patient Welfare Programme was able to cover the majority of Siraj’s treatment cost.
“The 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.