KARACHI: Seven-year-old Shahzadi Shaikh suffers from retinoblastoma, a rare malignant tumour of the retina. It is for the fourth time in two years that the child has been brought to Karachi for treatment.
Shahzadi was admitted at National Institute of Child Health (NICH) on Tuesday evening, where she is expected to be treated for the removal of a mass that has spread on the entire left side of her face.
According to her mother, Mai Jannat, Shahzadi has been feeling better since morning due to the medicines she was given at the facility. “But she is in severe pain,” she added as tears rolled down her cheeks. She told The Express Tribune that Shahzadi rarely speaks and even when she does, it is only her family who are able to understand what she says. According to her, they also appealed to the sports minister for help as he belongs to the same town of Khanpur Mahar but they did not get any response from him.
Explaining why they went back to their hometown from Karachi in the middle of the child’s treatment three times, Mai said that it was because they ran out of money.
A ray of hope
NICH director Jamal Raza said that the tumour has spread over the child’s entire face. They will conduct a biopsy, a few blood tests and scans, he said, adding that they do not have the biopsy report from 2015. “We are trying to find those biopsy reports and will compare them with the recent biopsy ones,” he said.
According to him, early diagnosis of tumour helps in better and easy treatment. Dr Raza further said that it is too early to say anything if the patient will be completely cured.
Living in abject poverty
Shahzadi has nine siblings. Her father, Ali Hassan Shaikh, runs a donkey cart and earns less than Rs200 in a day. Sometimes, he comes home empty-handed while they live in a rented house.
According to Ali, Shahzadi initially suffered from an eye infection two years back. They travelled to Ghotki, Daharki, Sukkur, Gambat, Larkana and finally Karachi in search of her treatment. Finally, he said, her eyeball was removed in 2015 in the ophthalmology ward at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.
A helping hand
Meanwhile, Saddar SHO Pir Shabbir Hyder, whose jurisdiction public-sector hospitals are in, has pledged to financially support the family for the child’s treatment. Hyder told The Express Tribune that he came to know about Shahzadi a few days back on a WhatsApp group. “I couldn’t see the misery she might be going through,” he said. “I then contacted a journalist in Ghotki to connect me with the family of the child and asked him to buy a mobile phone for her father so that I can remain in contact with them.” He also requested the district health officer (DHO) of Ghotki to arrange an ambulance for the family. On their arrival, SHO Hyder himself went to NICH to get the child admitted in the ward.
“I’ll bear the expenditure for her treatment as long as I can since being a policeman, I have a responsibility to facilitate and accommodate the patients visiting public-sector hospitals,” he said. “I can even go to the extent of arranging her treatment in a private hospital if I see that her treatment is not possible here.”
With additional reporting by Sarfaraz Memon from Sukkur
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2017.