The best things in life are free, especially when it involves a lifesaving surgery that can otherwise cost millions of rupees to a family that can least afford it. The first ever free of charge bone marrow transplant was performed at the Gambat Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS) hospital in Khairpur on Monday and young Tehreem from Bahawalpur was its recipient.
Her relatives were in no position to pay for the procedure she urgently required. Over a span of three years, her brother Shehroob had spent as much as Rs2.4 million in expenses while travelling to over a dozen hospitals, which denied the patient the treatment due to a lack of money.
Try as he may, the brother was unable to collect the Rs6m that was quoted as the minimum amount for the surgery by a hospital in Rawalpindi. After all, his only source of income was through a small school he ran in his native area of Qaimpur.
A difficult journey
Tehreem contracted a fever in 2018 when she was appearing for her FSc exams. She was taken to many doctors, from Bahawalpur to Lahore and Multan to Islamabad.
She needed an immediate bone marrow transplant, but the only earner in the family was Shehroob, who could not afford the massive funds needed for the procedure.
Just when all hope seemed lost, the light at the end of the tunnel came through advice from a Bahawalpur health expert, who suggested that Shehroob take his sister to GIMS in Sindh for free of charge treatment.
"For my sister, I can go anywhere," Sheroob tells The Express Tribune. "Also, I felt at ease with the hospital being in Sindh so I came here," he adds.
Counting the names of major public and private hospitals located in Punjab and Islamabad on his fingertips, Shehroob recalls the family could ill afford the amounts being quoted to them at these medical institutions. "We are poor and cannot afford such a huge amount," he says.
All's well that ends well
Tehreem's bone marrow transplant was conducted on Monday under the supervision of Dr Pervez, a senior doctor at GIMS.
"My sister and I are both recovering," says Shehroob, who was also the bone marrow donor for Tehreem. He reveals that he spoke to his sister on video call and she is now in a stable condition. "I, too, am happy and feel better," said joyously.
"It is the first ever free of charge bone marrow transplant at any public hospital of Pakistan," says GIMS Director Captain (retd) Dr Rahim Bux Bhatti.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Bhatti said a separate centre with 36 rooms has been established for patients with blood disorders and is now open to everyone. "We provide all kinds of facilities to such patients including treatment, diagnosis and bone marrow transplant," he says. "All is free of charge."
Dr Bhatti added that the treatment of blood orders is so expensive that poor families could not afford it. "Those who can pay such huge amounts prefer to leave Pakistan and the poor are left untreated," he said. Shehroob, meanwhile, has rented a small home in Gambat city for his mother, aunt and other family members.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2021.