AN UNIQUE rehabilitation initiative has helped transform 41-year-old Asha Chaburao, an abandoned tuberculosis patient weighing less than 35 kg who would not utter a word, into a chirpy boisterous woman who today can’t stop singing.
“These days it is difficult to stop her from singing,” said Manoj Panchal, founder of Janiv Ashram (Dombivali), a shelter home where Asha now stays.
Asha’s turnaround is a rare case of a TB-affected patient recovering with the help of medical and psychological treatment that she was made to undergo by a group of healthcare professionals.
In 2014, Chaburao was admitted by her stepson Gajendra Chaburao to the Sewri hospital with pulmonary TB. Within a year, visits from the family stopped. The hospital claimed that it received no response to the letter it sent to Chaburao’s registered address. In 2015, realising that her family was not returning to take her home, Chaburao became depressed, completely stopped talking and ceased to perform any activity.
Medical records show that from 2014 to 2017, she was not provided counselling by the hospital. In 2015, she was put on category-2 TB medication, which she soon stopped taking. Though she was cured of the infectious disease, she continued to remain in hospital since no one came to discharge her.
She would be bathed and fed by nurses and her diapers were changed once a day. On August 24, 2017, The Indian Express reported about her, following which the Anjeze Charitable Trust approached the hospital. The NGO appointed a caretaker to bathe and change Chaburao’s diapers.
When Sejal Shah, a trustee with the NGO, visited Chaburao’s registered address, she found that her son had informed the family that she had died because he could not afford to look after her. In 2017, Chaburao was referred to KEM hospital for investigations but she was not treated.
In 2018, the NGO decided to shift her to HJ Doshi Ghatkopar Hindu Sabha, a charitable hospital that agreed to treat her. Doctors decided to not charge a single penny.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Miten Sheth said she was diagnosed with bilateral fixed knee deformity as well as fixed elbows, wrist and hand as she was bedridden for four years. “She just didn’t just have physical problems but also psychological issues. It took more than 10 days for her to start responding to nurses.”
A team of orthopaedics, ophthalmology, skin, urology, nephrology, cardialogy, plastic surgery specialists, psychiatrists and physiotherapist was constituted to treat her. Chaburao underwent knee surgery on her both legs to facilitate straightening of her deformed legs. “We feared that f her blood vessel would snap as for years, they were in one position,” Sheth said. Now, a wheelchair-bound Chaburao undergoes physiotherapy daily and hopes for a better life.