- A youth’s life provides answer
I was sitting in the airport lounge waiting for a Dubai bound flight when I met a fair, chubby, and talkative young girl. She struck up a conversation with me though I was a stranger. I learnt she was also waiting for the same flight. A little later we boarded the flight and travelled together up to Dubai sitting in the adjacent seats. We exchanged many things including our mobile numbers. She said she was doing her Masters in a college in Henniker in New Hampshire.
On reaching Dubai, we took different flights to the US. Months have gone by. One day I got a text message from her that she needed some information about a part-time job. We met at a cafeteria. You know, the US citizens are coffee lovers and people like me also got used to drink coffee often.
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I was stunned when I met her at the cafeteria. She lost her weight and became lean. I enquired how many kilos she shed, thinking she was on a diet. She said she lost by 15 kilos! We got into a conversation about universities and jobs. As she was trying to share her life at the University, I observed her face and fingers turning blue. Being rude to her, I cracked a joke calling her an alien. We sat there for an hour or so and left for our homes.
Two months elapsed before we met again. This time around we met in her rented flat which was shared by her friends also. Indeed, she invited me to lunch. That happened to be a festival day too. I carried a cake and a wine bottle along with me. As soon as I knocked on the door, she came running to open the door. I was aghast at seeing her. She was looking like a patient, lost her weight further and turned pale. Worried, I grilled her about her health. I did not want to wait any longer and called a hospital seeking appointment.
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I took her to a reputed hospital where she was asked to undergo medical examinations. It took about four to five hours to have medical examinations during which my friend got into a panic as there was nobody on this foreign land to look after her in case he was diagnosed with a disease. Both of us were going increasingly restive. As the nurse was calming her by striking a lighter conversation, the doctor came and stood by her reading the reports. She was shaken when the doctor revealed a deadly truth. She was diagnosed with a strange incurable disease. The doctor informed me that the disease was in an advanced stage. I cannot put in words the worst moments I went through.
Moments later we looked at each other and laughed quietly. What else could we do when we didn’t know how to react to an unforeseen situation! While sending us home the hospital staff gave her a portable oxygen cylinder asking her to use it in case of any breathing issues. Then on, she kept seeing the doctors every alternate day. She got used to hospital things. She tried to muster the courage and began to focus on her studies and a part-time job.
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In the meantime, I made a few inquiries in India about any alternative medicine as is known for Ayurveda, Homoeo and Unani kind of treatments. Nobody knew much about this disease.
Her condition was worsening day by day. With no one to help her, I decided to take her to my flat.vHer legs and hands were swelling in the mornings. She was throwing up whatever she ate. She began to feel pain in the lungs. A slight chill in the air was making her wear winter gear. I wanted to inform her parents about the health condition. She was not letting me do so, fearing they would take her back from the US. Come what may, she wanted to complete her studies.
We saw the doctor again as the problems were exacerbating, particularly breathlessness. After examination, the doctor said the lungs were badly affected. We enquired them whether surgery could be done on the lungs. They said it was not advisable since it was a connectivity tissue disorder. Doctors suggested to her to go back to India where she could be under the care of her parents. Despite pressure and persuasion from the doctors and me, she wished to stay in the US till she finished her MS. Amazingly, she completed her studies. Such was her determination. I kept on persuading her to go back to India worrying about her deteriorating health. I was able to convince her at last. She is now under her parents’ care in India.
Recently I met her in India. I could not hold my tears. Her parents described her pathetic condition. She is often losing her composure, not sleeping during the nights. Her kidneys got affected. Blood pressure is rising. Not able to walk without the help of others. Confined to bed. Throwing up what she eats. Yet, her determination has not come down a bit. She wants to do some job and does not want to depend on her parents. She wishes to write for magazines, to learn new things, to dream in new ways. She shared with me that one of her friends offered her to be of his assistant in his office. She is confident that she would get better soon and avail herself of this opportunity.Wishing good luck, I left her with heavy heart.
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(PS: She is a patient of Scleroderma, a rare skin disease which inflicts several organs gradually)
(Writer is an alumnus of New England College, Henniker, New Hampshire in the US)