Making it work

Dec 2014 Aparajita Dwivedi Photo credit: Shweta Vitta

Geeta is making jowar rotis in her tiny, smoky kitchen fitted with a traditional chulha. The kitchen is actually just a portion of her small one-room house. The smoke from the chulha fills the room and traces of soot are visible on the family pictures that adorn the walls.

Geeta lives with her aged mother. She is HIV+ve, is taking ART and has suffered and recovered from pulmonary TB. Patting her hands free of the flour that sticks to them, she says with a faint smile lighting up her face, “I am alive today because of Nagarathna’s care and support; she guided me like a true friend and was there for me when even my husband left me to suffer and die.” She refers to the outreach worker from the SHOPS project.

Geeta’s route to recovery has been fraught with challenges. When she first sought treatment for fever and cough. A doctor in the private sector diagnosed her with seasonal flu and prescribed antibiotics. She got relief at first but only for a short while, after which the problem returned. She had the same experience with several other doctors. “One of the doctors I went to, gave me anti-tuberculosis drugs without informing me I had TB. I came to know only after Nagarathna looked at the strips of medicine I still had with me when I met her. I just gave up taking the medication after some time I suffered from severe nausea and vomiting because of the medicine. By this time I had already spent Rs 60000/-. I just stopped going to doctors after that and continued to suffer.”

Nagarathna learnt about Geeta’s condition from the anganwadi worker on one of her slum visits. She visited Geeta’s home, noted down her symptoms and took her to the Government Hospital where she was tested. While she was sputum –ve, her chest x-ray revealed TB. She was started on the DOTS regimen, which she has completed and is cured of TB.

“I was helped and guided all through my treatment period by Nagarathna. From a position of hopelessness and lack of desire to live, I have recovered fully and without spending any more money. Nagarathna was always just a call away,” she says with her eyes gleaming with happiness.

Nagarathna shares that Geeta is now an active member at the monthly Prerana Group meetings. “She has regained her lost self-esteem at these monthly meetings where she meets other people of her kind who look to her for moral support. She fills them with confidence and they go home reassured that they too will be well like Geeta.”