Note: This unfortunately is a sad story. A very sad story.
Therefore please be discreet in choosing whether to read or not read this story.
This also not a story. It is an incident from a PHC of a child’s death 25 years back.
This is a sad story. Atypical of me to write one. But today is World Pneumonia Day. And today I remember the consequences of Pneumonia untreated. I remember the three faces. That night. Vividly. At my PHC.
I had joined a few weeks back. As Medical officer. 1994. I had received the call late at night. Awakened from my sleep. The only Medical Officer at my PHC.
A man and a woman had turned up in my PHC. With an infant. Breathing distress. High fever. Suffering for last 5 days. On herbal medicine. Prescribed by a village doctor. Fever was subsiding. Breathlessness improving. With a sudden relapse that evening.
It was raining. The parents were drenched. A tattered blanket covered the child. They came from a forest slum. Chilapota Forest.
There was no functioning ambulance in my PHC. I told that this child needed referral to sub divisional hospital immediately. For pediatric care. Oxygen. Assisted breathing. Antibiotics. And close monitoring of vitals.
Hospital staff arranged for a vehicle. Private. Money was not an issue. A few villagers had come by then. Yet the child could not be transferred.
The child died. On a cold hospital cot. In the Emergency Room.
As they took away the child sobbing the father asked “Is there no vaccine/Teeka to prevent this? This child has received so many vaccines at this hospital. Was there not one to prevent this? ”
I did not reply. He did not wait for a reply. I can still see him move with his child in his lap. From the light in the Emergency Room to darkness in the street.
The only attending Nurse in the PHC wept. For she was a Mother too.
There was something in this child’s death with the question that the father asked that made us almost feel guilty. That a teeka/vaccine was not there to save this child. That adequate care facilities were not there in this hospital to save the child.
I have seen many more infants suffering from Pneumonia in my PHC. At the Out-patient Department. At the Emergency. Some were treated. With Co-Trimoxazole ( from the hospital dispensary) . With Ampicillin (purchased from dispensary’s outside).
Some were referred. To the Sub divisional hospital.
I do not know what happened to those which were serious and referred. Two I know did not come back home.
The day Pneumonia vaccine was launched in India, I spent a sad evening. Remembering the father. His question. It was supposed to be a day of celebration for me. Yet I was very sad.
A vaccine had arrived too late for a child. For a parent. For a family.
Today I feel sad at seeing the coverage of Pneumonia vaccine in the country. Sub-optimal coverage. Available yet not accessed by/ accessible to all.
Data drives decision. Decisions drive delivery. But for me with Pneumonia there is something beyond data for me. It is a hope.
A question. A face. A father. Pneumonia vaccine has all these attached. For me.
That is why Pneumococcal vaccine is very special to me.
And every World Pneumonia Day special in sadness and remembrance.

Click to access 2019-Pneumonia-Diarrhea-Progress-Report-Card.pdf

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