MANGALORE: Half lying with frail legs stretched out on the hospital bed in the general ward at Manipal Hospital in Bangalore, six-year-old Bharat manages a smile through intense pain.
Bharat’s smile infuses hope and prompts his mother Thilotthama and aunt Harinakshi to force a brave smile on their weary faces. Thilotthama’s struggle against all odds to ensure a healthy future for her sick son is heart-wrenching. Born with multiple health defects, Bharat seemed destined to die, for his father walked out on his family leaving Thilotthama to raise two children, one bed-ridden.
Struggling to feed the children from the little money she earned from rolling beedis in Shaktinagar, Thilotthama found strength from the support extended by her sister Harinakshi. Employed as a sweeper in the DC’s office, Harinakshi sought help from the sympathetic officers to raise money to seek help of experts at Manipal Hospital in Bangalore. After being diagnosed as suffering from Bilateral ‘Cleft lip and palate’, Bharat underwent three surgeries.
“The recent surgery conducted a week ago was a microsurgery for reconstruction of his palate which lasted for eight hours,” informs Dr Srikanth V of Department of Plastic, Micro, Cosmetic and Cranio-facial Surgery in Manipal Hospital. All surgeries were performed under great risk as Bharat was suffering from a congenital cardiac problem known as ‘Tetralogy of Fallot’ (a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart).
“It is a condition in which the heart has holes,” the plastic surgeon elaborated. The heart condition is visibly characterised by enlargement of furthest extremities such as fingers and toes. A corrective surgery is being planned in 2013, Dr Srikanth informs and adds that Bharat who was in the ICU on ventilator support for three days, will be treated for another week in order to boost his immunity.
However, the family was struck by another calamity, when Thilotthama was diagnosed with breast cancer. Moved by her plight, doctors at the hospital did not charge a rupee. They also pooled Rs 1.25 lakh to take care of other expenses.
Medical expenses including a week-long stay in the hospital and further corrective treatments, though estimated at about Rs 3 lakh, the sisters have not lost hope.