July 27, 2021 5:53:21 pm
“When can I eat chocolates,”? is the question posed often by four year-old Isakkiyammal at a government-run children’s hospital here. While eating sweets should have been a very ordinary thing for a child of that age, it is not so for her. The little one and her parents have been enduring a nightmarish struggle for about four months now after she ingested by mistake what they believe is bleaching powder. Subsequently, it became pretty hard for her to even swallow her saliva, leave alone eat or drink anything
Isakkiyammal’s humble working class parents, hailing from Shencottah, a little town in south Tamil Nadu, say they knocked on the doors of a number of government hospitals before getting their child admitted here. The child is being treated in the ICU of the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children at Egmore here, a renowned Tamil Nadu government run facility.
Recounting what happened months ago, Seetharaj and his wife Prema say they were away for work when they received a phone call from a neighbour that their child had taken ill after she ate bleaching powder. “We were terrified to see our child. Her lips got swollen, there was blood too and she started experiencing severe health problems from then on,” they told PTI.
Showing a photograph of her child clicked before she took ill, in which she appeared as a little angel, Prema could not control her tears when she showed the next image of the girl that was taken recently. Isakkiyammal was unrecognisable in that picture as she was emaciated and appeared crippled.
Before the incident, she weighed about 12 kg and it dropped to six kilos later as the child could not eat or drink anything.
“We went to Tenkasi hospital, then to Highground (Tirunelveli) and finally got her admitted here. It is heartbreaking to see that our child could not even drink little water or eat a morsel of food,” Sitharaj said. To a question, Sitharaj and his wife said they were not sure as to how the child got the “bleaching powder” as they don’t buy or store such things.
Director and Superintendent, ICH, Dr S Elilarasi said Isakkiyammal’s food pipe, esophagus was eroded and badly affected due to the ingestion of bleaching powder. The inability of the parents to take their child to a health facility for a regular check-up was also a factor that led to her present condition.
“The child says she took only a little cleaning powder. She is suffering from multiple stricture of esophagus, which is abnormal narrowing and tightening of the food pipe,” the ICH director told PTI.
When the child was admitted 12 days ago, as a first step, surgeons went in for gastrostomy procedure, placed a tube into her stomach for providing nutritional support, she said.
The child is fed milk and ‘Kanji,’ a traditional porridge like health drink through that tube and intravenous (IV) partial parental nutrition support is also provided, in addition to ensuring a warm ambience, she added.
The hospital chief said improvement was being observed as the child has gained nearly two kilos. “She is touching eight kilos and even often asking for chocolates.”
Isakkiyammal however has some infection and measures are in place to tackle such things. Asked about options they were considering to help the girl eat and drink as before, Dr Elilarasi said esophageal reconstruction may be an option.
Isakkiyammal should, however, gain more weight, at least about 12 kilos and a decision on what should be done could be taken later by pediatric surgeons, she added. “Only then the child can withstand any surgery. We have to wait to make a decision.”
Seetharaj is a helper in construction work and Prema rolls beedi leaves and the duo take up other odd jobs as well. However, since they are now staying in the hospital to attend to their child, they could not work, which means loss of income.
The couple has a 10-year old daughter, who is now staying with a neighbour in their native place. Days ago, Health Minister Ma Subramanian, during his visit to the hospital, directed officials to provide the couple food during their stay and also gave the keys of his government allotted house at MLAs’ hostel premises to the couple to stay.
Isakkiyammal is still not very clear about what happened to her after she ate that “powder” and wonders why she should could not eat. “I don’t know what answer to give if she again asks for mittai (sweets),” says a naive Prema.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.