Out of one village of Jirinia in India’s north-eastern province comes the disparaging tale of 18 month old Roona Begum who has been diagnozed with a condition that has led to a massive swelling of fluid inside her skull and her parents are too poor to seek treatment.
Saddled with a condition known as hydrocephalus, Roona Begum’s father, Abdul Rahman earns a paltry $2.50 a day working in a brick factory which has preempted him from attaining the necessary treatment his daughter needs.
Whilst normal procedure would dictate surgery to release the build up of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull, the girl’s parents can do all but watch as her condition deteriorates as they attempt to keep her comfortable. Left untreated the condition inevitably leads to excess pressure on the brain, causing headaches, blurred vision and, eventually, permanent brain damage.
Tells one health expert, Gill Yaz to the UK’s dailymail: ‘Left untreated, if it progresses very quickly, the babies usually die because their brain tissues are unable to adapt,’ then goes on to add, “if the condition develops more slowly, as in Roona’s case, the child adapts by growing their skulls to contain the excess fluid. However, the adaptation can only go so far.”
The main treatment for hydrocephalus is to implant a thin tube, called a shunt, in the brain to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body where it can be more easily reabsorbed.
The shunt has a valve inside it to control the flow of fluid and to ensure it does not drain too quickly, which those treated can feel as a lump under the skin of their scalps.
The procedure said to cost circa close to a thousand dollars belies the general state of malaise for many poor Indians who are unable to afford necessary procedures given the lack of social welfare in India. Calls to address the lack of safety net has led to accusations that the nation’s health care system has all but collapsed.
An effort to discuss the general malaise has led to thwarted efforts at reinvigoration as many of India’s poor are forced to suffer the overwhelming state of apathy and sense of inevitability that shrouds the nation whose identity often hinges on polarized caste systems and social tiers who lobby heavily for their own self interests as corruption is said to be rife.
That said any efforts to treat Roona Begum are thought to be all but too late as any surgery could be fatal and left untreated the girl would also eventually suffer further debilitating impairments that would in the end cost her her life.
Offers Sanj Bassi, Consultant Adult and Paediatric Neurosurgeon at Kings College Hospital:
‘Roona should really be left untreated. She will not make any recovery and will not ever live a life of any independence.
‘Hydrocephalus is very common, and we see it to this extent very commonly in developing nations.’
For more information and to donate money to other children in need of surgery, visit: facingtheworld.net