Between life and death | Pakistan Today

Between life and death

  • The double whammy of a fatal chronic illness in a backward area

Life tests Shapia Baloch, a 12 year-old thalassemia patient from Buleda, Turbat, with tough challenges in her regular life. She visits Turbat city from the under-construction Turbat-Buleda road amidst poor financial background. She hangs in-between life and death with her hereditary disease as she needs blood transfusion after every 25 days. Due to poverty she cannot have a proper treatment outside the city, whereas facilities do not exist in her town. Consequently, she cannot afford to get an education; her poor health condition enhances more of her worries about an education. She weeps with the moon every night pondering if she gets a good health in future or not.

Sadly, she travels to Turbat from her town with her mother for a blood transfusion, costing her around Rs. 3000 per trip; the other expenditures as those of a place to stay in the city and food, ramp up her financial worries. Because her father is a labourer who, not always able to have a job, can afford only a little for her monthly travels. “We [before getting admitted to Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank] stayed in civil hospital for days to get a donor on time, which needed lot more money; we could only have a little.” says her mother with tearful eyes hugging Shapia.

The little patients have dreams; dream to live, play, read, make a name, enjoy life, and many more. The government ought to ensure them the best to save their lives by any legal means

This also prompts Shapia to get out of school. Although she wishes to get an education in order to be a doctor, her family could only afford a little to bring her to Turbat city for blood transfusion. The money could suffice any longer with them for her education. “When I see kids of my age going to school in uniforms, tears come out of my eyes because I, too, want to accompany them, play like them, enjoy my childhood and be a doctor in future, but….” emotions take over Shapia when she wants to finish her thought.

As per a report of UNICEF Pakistan, Balochistan has around 78 percent of its girls out of schools. Alif Ailaan further clarifies that only 40,000 girls of Balochistan go to schools till matriculation. The reasons are distant high schools and low number of colleges in the province, particularly in the southern districts. On the other hand, if there exists any school or college, it is rarely functional.

However, Shapia, in last few years, has only had blood transfusion, no other treatment and medicines. It ultimately affected her physical growth; she appears to be only six years old, but is 12. When she is treated with medicines and other necessary injections, it would reduce the iron in her body. The presence of more iron in the body of a thalassemia patient lessens the amount of Red Blood Cells [RBC] and renders her subject to stomachaches, headaches, and extreme pains in her feet, while her belly would get bigger in size. “The presence of a thalassemia centre would help Shapia get the blood washed before transfusion which would take out the iron in it.” says Irshad Arif, the founder of Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank, Turbat.

As Turbat has around 296 patients of thalassemia, building up a thalassemia centre in the region is the urgent need of hour. Although it is not only from Turbat, but patients from the whole of Makran Division who approach the Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank in Turbat, and routinely visit it from their city to get the required blood on time. Although the Division is the hub of China Pakistan Economic Corridor [CPEC], it lacks the facilities for good living.

In the recent meeting of the provincial governmental authorities, a Thalassemia Centre was approved to be built in Turbat, but no work has been performed as yet. “I want to be a doctor and build a thalassemia centre,” says Shapia innocently when listening closely to the discussion in the Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank about a thalassemia centre. But who will propel her towards fulfilling what she wants as a citizen of the state?

According to a report, the survival rate of thalassemia patients in the country has increased to 23 percent from 13 percent in the last few years. The major reasons of recovery of these patients are; 50 percent depends on getting blood on time and 50 percent on proper medicines and injections. But, how would a poor patient afford to get injections and medicines of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per month? A thalassemia centre would give financial relief to the children along with adequate treatment.

However, the Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank in Turbat has been functional since February, which is playing a key role in providing blood on time in order to ensure 50 percent of life to the innocent children, but what of the remaining 50 percent which can be provided by the presence of a thalassemia centre? The little patients have dreams; dream to live, play, read, make a name, enjoy life, and many more. The government ought to ensure them the best to save their lives by any legal means. Besides the government, the common people need to help out by only donating blood to Kech Thalassemia Blood Bank in Turbat so that the pretty children get to have blood on time. Do the best you can to save lives of the children.