Dear fellow citizens, uncles and aunties,
I just arrived a few hours back and am full of dreams and desires as any other Indian.
You see, I was born some duration ago under very difficult circumstances. Immediately after my birth today, my mother is in a serious condition and my own condition is no better. I tried to seek an incubator as I need it desperately to survive but was told that there is none. And even if there was one, there is no one to operate it.
The next couple of hours are very crucial for me. I am finding it extremely difficult to breathe as my internal system is very weak and unable to support the pressure of survival. I am sure you understand what it is to constantly be under pressure and try and live through each day.
The last few hours have been extremely traumatic for me. On arrival, I find that there are no neonatal facilities here. Neonatal care is essential to a new born, especially those who are born with complications and who urgently need specialised care.
There is no incubator here at this hospital where I was born. On arrival, I looked around but couldn’t see any gynaecologist, nor any paediatrician. I am told there isn’t any one here, at this hour. There is a gynaecologist but she is not on duty at this time since there is only one appointed here. Even the nurse isn’t properly trained to handle me and seems clueless on what my needs are and what she should be doing to keep me alive. I need special medicines but I am told that critical medicines are always in short supply.
Uncles and aunties, the conditions here are very bad. I am told this is a Public Health Centre (PHC) but frankly, this is not a place where you or any or your family members would like to be in. It is very dirty and the ward is filthy. The toilet is worse than the one near the bus stand. No, this is certainly not a place you or any of your family members would like to visit.
You know, there is no electricity here, at least not since I was born and I am told that the electricity comes for a few hours only, each day. So, even if there was an incubator in the PHC, they wouldn’t have been able to run it.
I was shocked to learn that India has one of the highest Infant Mortality rates (IMR) in the world. I am told that as per an SRS study in 2010, the national level of IMR was 47 per 1000 i.e. 47 of my friends die for every 1000 who manage to make it.
I am told that there is a correlation between the IMR and the distance between the facility and the place of residence of the mother. The greater the distance, the greater the chance of a higher IMR in that location. I am also told that there is a correlation between the economic status of the mother and IMR. As such, IMR is higher for the poorer sections of society.
I now understand why my condition is so serious. We come from a poor family and reside far from this place, in a village. Besides, lack of Neonatal facilities is resulting in such a high IMR. It is like you arriving at a crucial public rally to make a speech and discovering that there is no electricity, no mikes and no stage. It is, indeed, depressing.
I am given to understand that India won its independence in 1947. Now, that’s wonderful to hear but why is it that the country still has a massive shortage of gynaecologists, paediatricians, anaesthesiologists, trained nurses, bio-medical engineers etc?
Had the nation planned and invested in time, so many of us would have been around, perhaps helping in the task of nation building. But so many of my friends have died since then. Most didn’t make it till the end of their first day. You will agree that’s not a good record to have. Not for a country that prides itself on our culture heritage, family values etc, so what happens when it comes to us newborns? Does anyone care? I mean really care?
The Medical services infrastructure is inadequate. They said that India has a District hospital (DH) for every 2-3 million people, where gynaecologists, paediatricians, anaesthesiologists, pathologists, general doctors and nurses etc are available. Although I am very young but even to me that sounds grossly inadequate.
Then there is the Community Health Centre (CHC) for every 100,000 to 300,000 people, where some specialist may be available for some problems, though not for 24 hours in a day.
And finally, at the basic level, we have the Public Health Centre (PHC) for every 100,000 people, where there are only two general doctors, no specialists nor nurses with special training, only nurses with very basic training are available. I am writing to you from a PHC.
Did you know that to keep me alive, I need not just an incubator but I also need a qualified gynaecologist, anaesthesiologist, paediatrician, child cardio intervention specialist and of course a lot of special equipment, to help me survive the day. The support I need is very similar to the support that you need to keep going through the day.
I am in great pain and am finding it very difficult to breathe. No one seems to understand my condition. My mother is not speaking to me as she is unconscious, I am told. She is very weak from the trauma of my arrival. I feel very bad for her as she had to undergo a lot of difficulty to bring me to this world.
You see, our home is in a village which is around 10 kilometers from this place. For the last so many months, every week or so, my mother had to visit this PHC. First, she had to walk quite a distance in the hot sun to reach the end of the village where she would have to wait for almost an hour to get a shared taxi, well it’s actually something like a tempo but very crowded, as everyone tries to get on it.
Then through very bumpy roads, the rickety vehicle would reach the main road about 3 kms away. The roads are only by name and remind me of the place where you have just sent one spacecraft called Mangalyaan. I think they call it Mars. Well, the roads actually do remind me of the roads in Mars.
Each time me and my mom left home, we had to undergo this ordeal. I would know the pain she had to undergo, as I was in her womb. So coming back to my narrative, the taxi/auto/tempo would drop us off to the point where we would again wait in the hot sun for a bus.
After more than 45 minutes of waiting, a crowded bus would arrive and my Mom would struggle to get on it. It was always so crowded that she never got a seat to sit, despite carrying me in her womb, and mind you, I was growing each month, so it wasn’t easy at all. After standing in a jerking bus on very bad roads, we would finally reach the place where the PHC is located.
Being very poor, my mother couldn’t afford the local cycle rickshaw, so she would walk to the PHC which was at the end of the town. On arriving, she again had to wait for her turn, which could take anything from an hour to three hours, as there were so many people and just one doctor. At the end of the check-up, my mother and I would go through the same ordeal to return home.
The sheer lack of infrastructure near our home meant that my mother had to undergo all this effort just to bring me to this world. This has taken a toll on our health. And now that I am finally here, I find her lying unconscious.
Uncles and aunties, after being in my mother’s womb for nine months, I want to talk to her, I want to feel her hold me and suckle me, like all mothers do but I don’t know if she will make it. After nine months of physical effort, both me and my mother deserve to live, don’t you think?
I feel very alone and lonely here. I am lying next to my mother and I heard someone whisper that there is little chance that I will survive the day.
I am very scared and I want to live through the day and maybe tomorrow, as well. I am sure you will understand, as you are in a similar situation with all the stress and problems you face in your daily lives. While you have all the support you need, I don’t have any. Please help me.
Dear citizens, I have a sincere request. In case, I don’t make it, will you please see that we have more Neonatal facilities, with all the supporting specialists at the PHC level? How can we differentiate between a child born in a PHC or CHC or a DH. That’s not fair.
You have to promise me that India will invest in training the right doctors and all supporting staff and ensure all equipment is made available and kept operational through the year, at all locations.
So many of my friends have died within the first three days of arrival that I have lost count and before the day is over, I too may join that list. But please, please don’t let my death go in vain.
I appeal to the government that when you allocate the budget to buy more fighter aircraft or build the ambitious high speed train, please do think of me. For the cost of one such project, thousands of Neonatal facilities can be put up. After all, what good are fighter planes or high speed trains, if we are not going to be there to use them?
I have high hopes from the nation like many Indians today, so please don’t let me down.
By the time you read this, I will have gone with the angels but I do wish good luck to all of you, for a long and healthy life.
With lots of love and best wishes,
A desperate and struggling newborn