The search for a 12-year-old boy from Western Uttar Pradesh, who battled osteosarcoma for close to five months at AIIMS, came to a tragic end in the institute’s emergency ward. Doctors found out that Bantu — who survived two rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, including an amputation — had died of dengue a couple of weeks ago at AIIMS.
Professor of Orthopaedics Dr Shah Alam Khan, who performed Bantu’s operation, said, “He was one of my many osteosarcoma patients. It is one of the most common bone cancers in children and affects the age group between five and 15. This boy fought the cancer… It is terrible that he had to die of dengue after such a brave fight.”
Dr Khan said Bantu had undergone chemotherapy successfully and had pleaded with doctors to save his leg. “He loved playing cricket. He was worried his friends would call him langda and he would have to give up the sport. He was perfectly healthy before he started to experience an unbearable pain in his knees. He came to consult me, after which I diagnosed him with cancer,” he said.
Doctors managed to salvage his leg in the first surgery. But after another round of chemotherapy, wounds from the first surgery became infected.
“This time, we had to amputate his leg. He was upset but I promised that we would get him a perfect prosthetic… He was doubtful, but his father is a landless farmer and could not afford the stay in Delhi or the intensive infection control required for managing the wound,” said Dr Khan.
Doctors roped in an NGO to arrange for the prosthetic. “His measurements were taken. The prosthetic was fitted on to Bantu and he went back home. During his last check-up, he told me his friends could not make out which was the prosthetic and which the real leg. He said he could hop on it… he was elated,” recalled Dr Khan.
Over the past few weeks, representatives from the NGO had been trying to contact Bantu to help him walk on his prosthetic leg.
“We were not surprised when we could not trace him, because most poor patients who come to us get a SIM card in Delhi and turn it off when they go back. But we were hopeful Bantu’s family would contact us during the scheduled follow-ups,” said Dr Khan.
As it turned out, Bantu was finally traced to the dengue ward in the AIIMS emergency department. “It is shocking. After putting up such a fight, Bantu became a dengue death statistic. We don’t know if he could have recovered. We learnt that he had come back to Delhi for a visit and contracted dengue. He died in the ward,” Dr Khan said.
Doctors said another osteosarcoma patient, a young girl who had also been discharged after receiving cancer treatment from AIIMS, has been re-admitted with dengue.