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Amid lockdown, thalassemia patients travel miles for treatment at PGIMER

A nurse herself, Honey Bhalla, who works at BBMB Hospital in Himachal Pradesh’s Nangal district had travelled to Chandigarh’s PGIMER for her blood transfusion and check-up as per routine on April 20.

Written by Chahat Rana | Chandigarh | April 25, 2020 8:37:31 pm

chandigarh lockdown, chandigarh patients, thalassemia patients, pgi, pgi treatment, pgimer, chandigarh news, indian expressMunicipal Corporation workers paint message: ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ on the road between Sector 38 and 40 in Chandigarh to spread awareness about lockdown. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Despite the lockdown and an acute shortage of blood donations, PGIMER continues to treat thalassemia patients from across the city and neighbouring states, some of whom have been undergoing regular blood transfusion at the hospital since they were detected with the disease.

A nurse herself, Honey Bhalla, who works at BBMB Hospital in Himachal Pradesh’s Nangal district had travelled to Chandigarh’s PGIMER for her blood transfusion and check-up as per routine on April 20. “I received the pass easily as I had to make the trip for the treatment of my medical condition. Though I am an employee of a hospital myself, with thalassemia you cannot take any risks with the quality of blood. Thus, I ensure that no matter what, I come here for the blood transfusion,” said Bhalla, who had made a 130 km long journey to PGIMER. “This will last me 20 days, and hopefully I will be able to come down again,” she added.

Rajendra Kalra, who has been running the Thalassemic Children Welfare Association (35) in Chandigarh since the past 30 years, said that the lockdown cannot come in the way of treatment of such patients. “It is a matter of life and death, so we work as hard as we can and ensure that we have enough blood for our patients, no matter what,” said Kalra, who also helps in running the dedicated Thalassemia ward at PGIMER’ Advanced Pediatric Centre (APC).

“Earlier, we used to get around 25 thalassemia patients for blood transfusion on an average and this has not reduced by much at all. We still get 18 to 20 patients, most of them are able to make it here for treatment,” said Dr Amita Trehan , a pediatric oncologist at PGI.

The hospital has been able to provide enough blood for patients, who need regular blood transfusion to survive, by developing new strategies to rope in donators every day. “Now, we have a bus as well which goes to the different part of the city regularly and even the neighbouring states at least four times a day to bring in volunteers for blood donation,” said Dr R R Sharma, head of the department of Transfusion Medicine. The 50 seater buses ferry the registered donors from as far as the neighboring Haryana on a regular basis. Due to social distancing norms, each bus only accommodates about ten donors at a time.

Dr Sharma added that each day, the task of procuring enough blood to meet the demands of the patients with precarious chronic diseases is becoming onerous. “We are doing our best, but we need a lot more donators if we wish to continue to meet these demands,” he said.

Furthermore, Dr Trehan added that though they are able to meet the demands of the registered thalassemia patients, there are many who will probably go undiagnosed due to the limited OPD consultation. “We used to be able to diagnose so many more with the disease, but now since few come for consultation, I am sure the disease is going undiagnosed,” he said.

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