A tale of two survivals

Two people, two different geographies, two genders….two unrelated people, whose stories are brought together by one distant spectator. Stories of survival as I’d like to call it. Stories of fighting the most dreaded disease on this planet.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to meet someone in the beautiful valleys of Shimla. An imminent personality in the State Government office. I remember walking into his office for an official visit. An office thronged by people representing civil society organisations, his own team members and a few difficult-to-figure-out faces. When I knocked on the door, to permit myself into the room; a handsome face briefly greeted me. A slight smile which was enough to comfort me, as I attempted to enter a powerhouse room of bureaucracy. I had entered in the middle of a meeting. It was mostly to do with that civil society organisation attempting to give the man across the table; their view on the healthcare system of Himachal. He seemed unperturbed by their take on the very healthcare system he represented, yet at the same time open to allow them a further investigation into the system. I was informed beforehand that he’s very meticulous and is exceptionally dedicated to his work. Some of his contributions were told to me, and I was impressed by this figure even before I met him.

Once he was done talking with the women, he gesticulated to me to ask the purpose of my meeting. Later to the meeting, a smiling me came out of the room, clearly satisfied that my meeting objective was met. During the tenure of my project, somewhere at the back of my mind I was intrigued by the man and was curious to know what granted him this exceptional calm. So the online social person that I am, I looked up his profile on a social networking site. And there I had my answer! The personality I was a so curious about; had a wife who was a survivor of breast cancer. In his online albums, he had gallantly displayed pictures of his wife’s book launch. His soft smile, in those pictures, were so distant from the personality I had met in that room. The proud smile of his wife mirrored her pride which I wasn’t quite sure represented what? Did that smile represent the pride of having a partner like him or did it tell the tale about the success of her book. Perhaps it could be both. Maybe it represented the courage and support he had extended to her to make her book become a reality. A book that she perhaps aspired to write to share the story of her survival. Having stared at those pictures, putting away my laptop; I was gripped by an intense yearning to meet the man and his wife. I decided quite the contrary. Maybe I had a wistful desire to keep the story the way I imagined it to be. Besides I had those pictures to assure me that the story was fairly close to my imagination. I locked the story in my mind to be retrieved whenever I would need it.

A few years later I met a woman, in a formal event organised by our company. I thought she belonged to the crowd of co-workers and didn’t really happen to notice her, until she was called upon the platform to share her story. Her story of surviving Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML), commonly known as blood cancer. At the beginning of her story, which later transformed into one of the most moving life experiences I’ve heard; she appeared courageous and fun-loving. At one point, we all witnessed her grabbing her handkerchief and holding it to her eyes. As though to say she didn’t want her tears to reach the ground. Those tears didn’t well up until she reached that turn in her story where she lost her only son; who she had given birth to knowing well that she suffered from cancer. A son whose very existence could have threatened her life. Who she gave birth to standing sturdy against her scathing fate…that only child was lost to an unfortunate car accident. No sooner that I thought to myself that maybe destiny would now stop its silly prank, that she spoke about her separation from her husband. Her eyes welled up more scornfully; and the tear sheen grew more dense. Her pain was open and her attempt to hide it less surreptitious. When I met her briefly over ladies’ washroom talks, the pain had vanished and her eyes brilliantly clear. It seemed that the lashing monsoon drops were wiped off from a car’s wind shield.

After meeting this gorgeous lady, I had a few minutes to myself to reflect on these two situations; which somehow to me seemed connected. Connected by two common threads; of human spirit and it’s desire for companionship. I thought to myself, “Look how different these stories are, yet how they drive the same essence”. I succumbed to a deafening silence, like it was conveying to me: just how healing the ointment of togetherness can be. But, what if this ointment fails? And at that thought, the clear eyes after those gashing rains blinked to me and said; human self-spirit is then the only premise.

Anyone can fall ill, very ill…but the best of human spirits continue to hold their hand and help them sail through these tides. For those who leave their hands to part ways don’t realise that to counter the weakness of their spirit; the instinct to survive would rise. Rise beyond all limits keeping life aloft above the oddities of human destiny.

After all, isn’t it true that the incandescence of life is the most luminous in the most unfathomable circumstances?

Sand Dunes

Sometimes the earls of time teach me how to whine

Cause its the weakest moments making the strongest memories of mine

The sand dunes show the arid air on them; sun glare whipping with shame

Hail oh the dunes , in growling disgust I say

Why do you stare at me in utter dismay?

A blowing gust of wind sprawls across my face

Splattering the dunes into a dense haze
Small grains of sand are then set ablaze

Serendipity shakes my disgust and hence it says

Its your decadent thoughts the irony that I fear

So tiny is your wisdom, like a mind clouded by smear

You don’t see the dots of sand which makes the dunes exist

And the wind which shapes its life without which it cant  persist

An economic argument for screening devices

“A stitch in time saves nine” an old adage, would be a pertinent statement to serve as a premise for screening devices in prevention and early detection of chronic diseases. However, there is no intention to merely go by the words of the statement but to read in between the lines.

Chronic diseases have geared up to become the greatest cause for concern in healthcare. Coupled with infectious diseases; they have now presented a rather monstrous challenge to the disease situation of the country, most aptly described as the “dual burden” of diseases. Earlier known as the “rich man’s” disease, chronic diseases have managed to penetrate almost all socio-economic sections of the society. The very reason for increasing concern for chronic diseases lies in the increase in mortality and morbidity it contributes, so also in its very own term: “chronic”. Being chronic in nature, they tend to have long-term economic impact on individuals, families and society at large. These diseases warrant long-term care, expensive treatments and sustained economic losses. Given the ripple effect that these diseases carry as their inherent characteristic the focus on prevention and early detection has sharpened. Sharpening of focus on prevention, and more specifically early detection of diseases has incentivised screening devices to try their luck in diverse markets (countries). From economic perspective, these devices would have a definitive role in controlling rippling caused by these diseases. As our economist friends would tend to agree, that in a resource constrained environment, cost is a concern. Our friends would also agree that if screening technologies discount for future costs of healthcare then certainly these technologies would prove to be extraordinarily cost-effective. But is our economic math for screening device so simple? Let’s delve into the question.  Continue reading

Catering to the rural markets

Catering to the rural and semi-urban market

The Rural Health Statistics 2011 reported that as on March, 2011 the overall shortfall in the posts of Health workers (HW) / Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) was 3.8% of the total requirement[1]. For allopathic Doctors at PHCs, there was a shortfall of 12.0% of the total requirement for existing infrastructure as compared to manpower in position. A grim note to begin with, but hasn’t this human resource dearth caused us to look elsewhere for solutions. There have been many strategies, formulae and theories floating in think tanks for meeting this challenge. However in the short and the far sight, there appears only one solution for catering these geographically distant markets: technology. As any other solution or answer, technology as a solution is not fool proof but an extremely promising solution. Continue reading

Communicating change in technology

Although change is essential, it is equally unwelcomed. Introducing changes in an organisation, especially upgrading technology is a rather daunting task. General reactions are uproar, in-acceptance, or even worse: cold shoulders. Continue reading

Bending the healthcare cost curve

Discussions related to reducing the healthcare cost while ensuring access to quality healthcare; are flooding many discussion spaces. The rising healthcare costs in India and poor status of public health system in the country are distancing common people from effective healthcare. Continue reading