Although medical house calls are rare in modern times, Dr. Ajitha visited, Kembi, an elderly patient living in a nearby tribal colony who was no longer able to come on her own. Kembi was the very first patient to come to the hospital on its opening day in 2004. She recently had a stroke and after treatment at a nearby hospital had come back to her home. Dr. Ajitha and Nurse Sheila wanted to check on her condition and care. They brought medicine and a sheet and nightdresses as well. The team had to leave the jeep on the roadside and hike up a narrow path to a small hamlet picturesquely located amid paddy fields and coconut palms. On the edge of the hamlet, backed up against a huge boulder, they found the patient’s house.
They discovered that Kembi was in pain from a recent fall when she had tried to move around her house. They cleaned her wounds and gave her painkillers. During their visit and local health care worker arrived and a discussion ensued about returning her to the hospital. However, no bystander was available or willing to go with her. (A bystander helps care for the patient in the hospital and fulfils many of the functions of a nurse). It was decided that if the doctors could look in on her occasionally and the family members could give her food, medicine and keep her clean, that she could stay a home. Everyone seemed happy with this decision and the team hiked back down the narrow path to the road, having lessoned the suffering of one more human being.
Mr. Balakrishnan, age 58, travelled 25 km to come here from Sulthan Battery. He is a diabetic and needs to come here every 20 days to monitor his condition and receive medication. He has been coming for the past 5 years and says that his condition is under control and he is able to work.
He proudly told us that he is a Paniyar tribal farmer. His chief crops are rice and coffee. He mentioned that farming has become more difficult due to the lack of rain at the right time. He has three children, with the two girls being married and the son, a graduate of Polytech in electrical engineering, working on construction projects.
He was diagnosed at a hospital in his town, but was not satisfied with the treatment there. He heard about this hospital and began coming here as he felt he had a better rapport with doctors and staff. He feels that this small hospital is much better than the other larger ones that he has tried and is very satisfied with the treatment. He hopes that the hospital will be able to add IP facilities soon.
Mr. Prabkaran, age 67, comes monthly by bus from Abalavayal which is 40 km. away. The journey takes about 1 hour and thirty minutes each way. He has been coming here for the last 5 to 6 years. He comes monthly to monitor his heart condition and diabetes and receives medicine worth 500 rupees on each trip.
He has been to other hospitals, but settled on this one for his treatment as he feels that he gets better treatment here. He appreciates the good attitude of the staff and doctors and is very happy with his treatment.
Prabakaran is a Paniya, Panchayat member and a social activist. He spoke about the problems of the tribals, saying that they have three main problems: lack of land, very low standard of living and low earnings when they can find jobs. He added that the tribals suffer from many health issues, including malnutrition. In the past, the tribes got food from hunting animals, but now government restrictions prevent hunting. They formerly hunted small animals like pigs, rabbits, and wild birds, using bow and arrows and traps. This sincere man has fought for the rights of tribal groups and been beaten and jailed in the struggle to obtain them. He feels the best way for tribes to better their condition is to come together and work as a unified group to assert pressure for their rights.
Chinchu, a 17 year old girl, walked here from her mountain top house in Muttil. She had to walk along the road for 3 km and then had to hike up and down 3-4 km to reach her house. There is no transport and access is only by foot. She came with a married older relative. She comes from a family of six children and her parents are day labourers in agriculture.
Chinchu discovered that she was a diabetic when in a boarding school for tribal children in Trivandrum. She was in 5th Standard then. She continued her schooling until 9th Standard, but dropped out at that time. The main reason she gave for dropping out was the difficulty of obtaining and managing her medicine in boarding school. The local day school was too far away for her to attend. She has applied to Akshaya to learning stitching or handicrafts and is waiting and hoping to be accepted.
She has been coming to this hospital for the last three years. She needs to come every two weeks to have her blood checked and receive medicine. She prefers this hospital to others that she tried as she says that the facilities are good. She can get her blood tested and have the results without delay and her treatment is carefully monitored. She likes the concern and caring attitude that she gets from the doctors and the staff and feels that there is more care personal attention given to her treatment. The medicine is free and if there is no money for transport , she can walk all the way to the hospital.
Sita, age 21, is a Panyar from the Muttil area. The day we met her she was on her way to a new job at AIMS. Her five year old son clung to her, aware that something was happening. He would stay with his aunt, while his courageous mother went to work at a large hospital several hours away where she knows no one.
This situation was brought about by one of the greatest problems in tribal life- alcohol addiction. Her husband is an alcoholic and her home situation has become impossible. To add to her woes, her modest dwelling collapsed in this year’s severe monsoon, leaving her with no place to live.
She has already faced many difficulties in her young life. She was forced to stop school in 7th Standard due to family problems. Both her parents became ill and she had to go to work to help support the family. Her son was also born with health problems and had to have an operation for urinary problems at AIMS at two months old.
Sita has been coming to the hospital for various acute health problems for several years. When she was lacking clothes for herself and her children, she also received help. (The hospital receives clothing donations and distributes them to deserving people.)
When her house collapsed and her marriage became untenable, the doctors suggested the ASK program at AIMS. She is grateful to the doctors for helping her and happy to be going to earn money. Her dream is to build a small house for herself and her son.
Madavan is a heart patient, but he does not want surgery. He is managing his condition with medication. He also has diabetes and hypertension. Madavan works as day labor on a plantation. His daughter is married and his son is studying.
He introduced himself as a fearless man. He said that he does not fear death. He is ready to die anytime and has already set aside money for his funeral rites. He plans to donate his body to the medical college.
He showed us many wounds on his body from injuries sustained at work. He told us that once a coconut landed squarely on his head and he was taken to the hospital unconscious and was given up for dead. However, he somehow survived. He seems to be a lucky man as well as a fearless one!
Madavan works on some days and takes his cows into forest on others. says he has encountered many wild animals in the forest, but he is not afraid. He said that he is more afraid of human beings than wild beasts.
Madavan says that he comes to the hospital because of the good behavior of the doctors and staff. He would like the hospital to have inpatient facility.
Devu is a 56 year old childless widow who has been coming to KAKCH since 2004. Initially, she lived close to the hospital, but after the death of her husband she had to move in with her sister, 30 km away. Devu is a diabetic and also has high blood pressure. She needs to come monthly to the hospital to monitor her condition and collect her free medicine. Devu earns her livelihood working as a day laborer in a tea estate collecting tea leaves. She gets work about two days a week. A few tears fell from her eyes when she explained that she was all alone and gets no help from her relatives.
She says that she feels comfortable here and is getting better from the good and free treatments and medicines.
Parvati S., a young mother of two, knows well the value of preventive medicine and timely treatment of ailments. She has been coming to KAKCH since its beginning in 2004 for all family ailments. This time she was concerned because her new baby had conjunctivitis along with fever and a cold. She immediately brought the baby for treatment along with her niece who also had conjunctivitis. When asked why she came to this hospital for treatment she said that she understands the value of the treatment that she is receiving. She said that she has a good opinion of the hospital because of the good behavior of the doctors and the staff here.
She would like the hospital to have IP facilities and wishes the hospital and staff well in their future endeavours.
Radha, age 45, lives in Meenangadi, 15 km. from the hospital. She has been coming to the hospital since 2005. Radha had a huge goiter and two years ago the doctors referred her to the Amrita Jeevan project. She was given a free operation at AIMS to remove the goiter which has made a big difference in her life. She needs to be on thyroid medicine the rest of her life which is being supplied free of charge.
Previously she had visited other hospitals but found that that her medical treatments were more effective here. In addition, the treatments and medicines here are free. She said that she appreciates the good behavior and good character of the doctor and staff. She is very happy with the hospital and her treatment.
Sunanda, a young mother of 23, and her husband, along with their two children ages 4 1/2 and 1 ½ have been coming to KAKCH since 2007. They live in Kampalakad, about 8 km away. A neighbor recommended the hospital to them telling them they would get good and free treatment.
On a recent visit, they came because the toddler had fever and diarrhea. They said that previously they had gone to the government hospital but they had to buy the medicine from outside medical shops which was difficult on the limited wages of the husband.
They said that they are happy with their treatment and feel that they are getting better. They would like to see an IP facility in the future at the hospital.
Ravi is an 18 year old diabetic Plus One student. He travels 22 km by bus to the hospital. He was referred to the hospital by his uncle. (The majority of the patients coming to the hospital are referred by friends, family members or neighbors.) He is feeling better with his medicines and hopes to go on to higher studies in science.
Getting free medicine was crucial for him. He says that he feels quite fine with his treatment. He said that he likes the character (swabhavam) of the doctors and their good behavior toward him.
Kelu, age 43, is a rheumatic heart fever patient, living in Kambalakady, Pulikkalkunnu Colony, 8 km. away from the hospital. He has been coming here since 2004. He has two children in 5th and 9th Stds and works as a day laborer earning around 200 rupees a day when there is work.
Although he had gone to many private hospitals, his heart problem was not diagnosed until he came to KAKCH. After an initial diagnosis he was referred to the special cardiology camp, held periodically at the hospital An echocardiogram and examination confirmed the initial diagnosis. He was sent to AIMS for further consultation, where he received heart care and medicines free of charge. He also had free surgery for a hernia at AIMS.
He said he is very pleased with his treatment at KAKCH. Not only did they diagnosis his problem correctly, they treated him with respect. He commended the good behavior of the doctors and staff explaining that they would say please and request patients to do things, not shout or demand. He appreciated the soft approach and said that less important to him than medicine was the kindness he receives here.
The main thing he would like to see here is IP facility.
He began talking of the problems of the tribals and pointed out that Amma, who he met at Mananthavady, is helping them and can do a lot to help them. He began spontaneously listing problems of the tribals. On his list, the number one problems are alcoholism and lack of money management. He said that 90 per cent drink. When asked why they drink, he said that the landlords of the plantations offer it to them as an enticement to work for them. Once they start drinking, they become addicted. Additionally, they don’t know how to manage their money and spend it as fast as they make it, alcohol being one of their major expenditures. Literacy is also a problem due to lack of good primary education. They lack education in hygiene and have an irregular food habits. They don’t eat at any fixed time, but just when they feel hungry. Heart trouble and cancer are beginning to be big issues for the formerly healthy tribal population.
Kelu was happy that day as his niece had started working for KAKCH.