The sight of a 30-day-old child vomiting the little nourishment she gets can be worrying for a parent, but when her newborn daughter’s body turned unusually cold that afternoon in August, Aftab Hashmi panicked.
The nervousness of a parent whose infant falls terribly sick just few days into her life is inexplicable. Fear takes over excitement, and love turns into helplessness. Aftab and his wife Ameena rushed to the hospital with their baby after she fell sick. They were anxious, but believed that the doctor would prescribe them some medicines and that they would be back home within the hour.
It has been nearly two months since, but the baby is still in the hospital and at the brink of death – she has been diagnosed with a complex congenital heart disease which can only be treated with a surgery.
“I have nothing left to say,” Aftab tells TNM on the phone from Mumbai. A tailor who makes no more than Rs. 10,000 every month, Aftab says what his youngest daughter is now facing is saddening, but that the situation can be summed up very simply. “If I get money, I can save her. If I fail to pay on time, my daughter will be snatched away from me, she will die. My heart aches to even say it but that’s my reality now,” he laments.
Aftab needs at least Rs. 3 lakh within the next 7 days and a few more lakhs immediately after to save his daughter. Two days after TNM first spoke to Aftab, he called back and asked, “Will you be able to help us? Get me at least half the money, doctors said they will make the arrangements for the surgery,” he said, his voice quivering in desperation.
“Every time the doctors approach my baby’s body with a syringe, I close my eyes because the first time I saw that, I broke down in front of my wife and children. My younger daughter walked up to my wife and nervously asked why I was crying. What could we tell her?”
Aftab thinks back to the day when her youngest daughter was born, on July 11, 2017. “It was such a joyous day for our family. My children were excited to welcome their younger sister for whom they had waited for months. My wife was happy to have a normal delivery and a healthy baby. And I was just glad that the baby had taken after my wife and not me,” he says.
It took a while for Aftab to understand his daughter’s medical condition. “After asking a lot of questions, I’ve come to understand that this disease is making my daughter’s heart circulate unhealthy blood in her body, but it can be corrected with an open-heart surgery.”
Aftab says that in the last 5 days the baby has lost a lot of body weight, and that the doctors are losing hope. “She is running out of good blood, they say. I am not able to fully understand, all I know now is I need to save my girl,” he says, breaking down.
His wife is numb with sadness. “She keeps looking at the baby and crying. My kids ask her when the baby will come home, and we don’t have an answer.” He has a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, and both have been missing their parents.
Aftab has knocked on all known doors for help. “We are poor. Family has helped with whatever they can, and my friends are in no position to help me with money,” he says.
“Ever since I found out about my daughter’s condition, I haven’t had the time or energy to go to work and that has cost me a month’s salary. I’ve already used all my savings and a month’s advance in paying for the tests and medicines. Because I couldn’t arrange for money on time, I’ve already lost my daughter’s bed at Cooper Hospital once. I’ve now shifted her to Wadia Hospital. I cannot fail this time. I’m desperately trying to save my daughter’s life. I can’t let her die, she hasn’t even started living yet,” he says.
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