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Letters to the editor

A hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on

Dear Mr George,
The day after my arrival in Mumbai, my brother Malcolm Goode of Marol village gave me the January issue of your magazine. I was very impressed by its professional quality.

I was deeply touched by the story (in the section Achievement) of Rohinton Panthaki who lost both his legs in a horrendous train accident 19 years ago (after being left six hours on the tracks before he received medical aid), and who, in spite of unbelievable pains and pitfalls, has made a truly miraculous recovery. He has resumed his place in society as a "whole" human being, made healthy first by his own determination to conquer his handicap but also aided by the devotion and love of his mother, family and friends who encouraged him through his ordeal.

This article hit home because I had just stopped in London (on my way here from Seattle) where I visited a good friend who lost one leg seven years ago due to complications caused by the dreaded Cushings Disease. I first saw her in hospital just after the amputation and my heart went out to her because she was so pitifully alone imprisoned in her hospital bed with only a handful of visitors (her only brother had died suddenly a month before her operation and her mother was elderly and unable to travel to see her). The only person who came regularly once a week was a cousin by marriage.

I was convinced then, as I am still, that though the hospital provided good professional support from doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists and other trained personnel, she would have made a better recovery if she had had access to strong family support. What she lacked was somebody's hand to hold or shoulder to cry on. I have continued to visit her twice a year on my way to and back from India and have followed her slow re-education and adaptation, her pains and problems with the prosthesis. The progress is slow because she lives alone in her flat with two cats. The government helps her by sending a cleaning person once a week for four hours and she has been given a car specially designed for handicapped persons and a parking card which gives her the right to use designated parking for easy access to all public places. The British National Health Service covers doctors, drugs and hospitals but she spends many frustrating hours on the telephone trying to make appointments as doctors are usually overloaded.

She has endured many operations since the first, for related causes and her body seems to be responding to her own sad emotional and mental state she suffers from acute bouts of depression, has stopped reading or writing except to keep abreast of the many forms and applications she must fill; she lives like a recluse with only the TV to keep her company and she has little appetite because she eats alone, from a tray on her lap in front of the TV. I remember this lady as a bright, active person in her youth, always involved in jobs where there was plenty of interaction with people. Her eyes still light up when she talks of this exciting past, but they dull when she steps into the present which seems like an interminable endurance test.

The contrast between Rohinton and my friend is great: in the West the focus is on technology, drugs, therapies and the individual goal of the patient; in India the family steps in to offer strength to face our problems and we know that in the end whatever the end there will be someone there to help us through another day (Not in all cases but in many.)

For both worlds, divided not only by distance but by a vast ocean of understanding on how to treat illness and disability there are valuable lessons to learn. I firmly believe that one day a holistic approach will be wedded to finer technology and all humans will benefit.

Mrs Joyce Mitchell
9825 N.E. 23rd Street,
Bellevue, WA 98004
USA

C/o Malcolm Goode
6 Stanstar Apts,
Church Road, Marol

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