Three months after she was admitted in Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital, Nandurbar’s paraplegic girl Ravita Valvi was discharged from the facility on Saturday night. Following a spinal surgery and month-long rehabilitation, the eight-year-old is able to sit on her own but remains paralysed from the waist down. According to doctors, she may not be able to walk again and will have to resort to a wheelchair support at her home in Khadkya village, Nandurbar, in northern Maharashtra. According to her parents, the hospital delayed her discharge by three weeks after finishing her treatment because it was unable to raise funds to cover the cost of her surgery. By December, her bed sores, earlier measuring over one centimetre, had also healed.
The tribal girl was admitted in GT Hospital in October after she fell off a tree branch in her native village Khadkya in September last year, leading to a broken spinal cord that caused paraplegia. For a month, her parents knocked the door of one hospital after the other, from Nandurbar to Mumbai, travelling over 467 km before getting Ravita admitted at GT Hospital. At one point in their journey, they were even forced to create a makeshift stretcher using bamboo poles to carry their daughter on foot from Parel’s KEM Hospital to Gateway of India in search of a hospital.
In November, state health minister Deepak Sawant announced that the government, under the Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana, would cover the costs of Ravita’s treatment. Her surgery cost Rs 60,000 and special medicines for her spinal cord cost between Rs 30,000 and 40,000, but the package under the scheme only approved Rs 34,000. The hospital then delayed her discharge and tried to raise funds through social workers to cover the remaining treatment cost.
“We had applied for normal orthopaedic surgery initially under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. But her surgery was more advanced, it was a spinal cord surgery. We have requested the insurance scheme to upgrade the code for her surgery so that more insurance coverage can be made possible,” said hospital deputy superintendent Dr Vikas Mainda. Ravita underwent a spine surgery that required 12 screws to be fitted in the backbone. But the scheme only covered the cost of eight screws, each costing Rs 3,500-4,000.
Dr MB Tayade, hospital superintendent, said Ravita’s condition required special intervention. “Since it is a tribal family, they will not have rehabilitation support in their village. We have been doing physiotherapy daily to help her improve her movements.” The girl, who speaks only the local Bhili language, can now sit for longer durations and can shift her body on her own, but her legs remain paralysed. NGO Chetna Trust has provided her with a wheelchair.
“We want to send her to a school, but it’s on another hill. We will see how to settle her once we return,” said her mother Shanti Valvi. Her father, Rajya Valvi, a farmer, said that for last three months they remained by their daughter’s side in Mumbai for her treatment. “My remaining children are with relatives in the village. We do not have money to look after all her needs.”