MADURAI: Abandoned by her family, for two months now, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Institute of Child Health and Research Centre at Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) has become home for a six-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities.
A crib-like steel bed meant for ICU patients has been the girl’s dwelling since she was admitted on December 29 after being abandoned inside the hospital premises by a family member. However, nurses, sanitary workers, although overworked, and relatives of other patients, have come together to care for the child.
One of these caregivers is M Selvi from Kodai Road, whose three-month-old grandson was admitted to the ICU 10 days ago. “While the nurses bring clothes from their homes for the girl and buy diapers, the sanitary workers take turns to bathe her and change her into fresh clothes every day. She can be seen in pattu pavadai one day and in a frock the next,” says Selvi, seated by the child’s bedside.
“The girl is fed by the nurses and sanitary workers amidst their busy shifts. They buy milk, biscuits and also give her porridge,” she adds. Another woman, whose grandson was admitted to ICU for about a month visits the child and attends to her, even after her grandson’s discharge. Hospital sources say the girl is kept in the ICU only because it makes it easier for the staff to keep an eye on her. She is otherwise healthy, they say.
‘Girl needs aid to enhance motor skills’
“The girl requires special care and treatment to enhance her motor skills. Pointing out that she has cerebral palsy, as well as intellectual disabilities, many shelter homes and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), have refused to take her in,” explains S Balasankar, director (in-charge) of the Institute of Child Health and Research Centre (ICHRC).
Hospital authorities say that the girl’s plight was taken to the notice of Madurai Collector TG Vinay 10 days ago. After that, an NGO visited the girl but there has been no word from them since. Story of two other kids The six-year-old is not the first abandoned child with cerebral palsy to have ended up at GRH. An eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy was left outside a private hospital close to six months ago. The boy was admitted to the Institute of Child Health and Research Centre in September 7, 2019. He was shifted to the Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine at Thoppur in October. After facing several hurdles in finding a home that would take the boy, who is also deaf and mute, he was finally moved to a home, funded by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, in Mayiladuthurai in November, based on the Collector’s order.
Another eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities was rescued from Thirumangalam bus stand in October 2019 and is being housed, temporarily, at the Reception Unit of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) at Muthupatti. B Pandiaraja, a member of Madurai district CWC complains that the district lacks the infrastructure required to care for children with cerebral palsy, resulting in difficulties in finding abandoned children safe shelter. He says that steps must be initiated to set up government homes that can provide care and shelter for such children. Vinay was unavailable for comment. State Commissioner for the Welfare of the Differently-Abled Johny Tom Varghese admits there are no homes in Madurai district to care for children with cerebral palsy.
He says in a few days the girl, as well as the eight-year-old boy at the Reception Unit, would be sent to Chennai where there are two shelter homes, funded by the Department of Social Welfare, that care for children with severe disabilities.
Varghese says he will discuss this with the Madurai CWC. Commenting on the lack of homes and support systems for children with cerebral palsy in Madurai, Varghese says that as incidents of abandonment of such children are being repeatedly reported in the district, the issue would be looked into.
Where would such children go?
State Commissioner for Welfare of Differently-Abled, Johny Tom Varghese, says there are no homes in Madurai to care for children with cerebral palsy and assured that the girl would be sent to Chennai soon.