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I was in the busy paediatric outpatient department when I first saw her. The baby girl was 3 months old, had very low birth weight, poor postnatal weight gain and needed cataract surgery, ligation of a patent ductus arteriosus and a cochlear implant for profound hearing loss, all part of the congenital rubella syndrome.1 As a paediatrician in a large referral hospital in Kerala, South India, I still see such cases, despite the availability of rubella vaccine and the prevailing high literacy rate. I could only offer solace to the mother saying, “Don’t worry, we shall go through this together. I too had congenital cataracts operated when I was her age”. She gave me a look of utter disbelief, but we had struck a chord.
‘Doctor, can you have a word with my husband? He feels all this will not be worth it, and besides, the baby is too tiny for any surgery. Moreover, we will find it difficult to afford all this if I have to give up my job.’ I was a trifle taken aback by her request, but I was happy to have the opportunity to convince him about the importance and effectiveness of early intervention. It was obvious that the family had financial problems, but they were relieved to hear that government schemes would take care of all expenses.
Over a cup of coffee soon after, once I was done for the morning, memories came flooding back. I had heard how my parents were shattered …
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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