The much reviled government hospitals have their own success stories. They could even stoke philanthropic sentiments in beneficiaries. As happened in the southern Indian city of Chennai Monday. Shankar, a businessman, was in tears while acknowledging the services of gastroenterologist S.M.Chandramohan at a function in a leading public hospital in the capital of Tamil Nadu. It is situated in Royapettah in the heart of the Chennai.
The doctor and his team had reconstructed the food pipe of his son Senthil who had attempted suicide by drinking acid. "Our family was shattered when Senthil drank acid to kill himself. Although he survived, he was unable to eat since the acid had destroyed his food pipe. After five years of unsuccessful surgeries conducted elsewhere, it was this hospital which came to our rescue," Sankar recounted. He said as a gesture of gratitude his family would meet the education costs of four other acid victims.
U. Jagadeeswari, a first year student of a city college, daughter of a cobbler had consumed acid in desperation and 18-year-old Narendrakumar who too attempted suicide the same route were two others who had benefited from the hospital's expertise. Now they and two daughters of her young mother who committed suicide drinking acid have all received financial assistance from Shankar.
The father almost choked when he recounted that he spent a lot of money feeding the poor so that one day his son too would be able to eat. For five years Senthil was fed through a feeding tube. Later Dr Chandramohan and his team of doctors replaced Senthil's food pipe with a piece of his large intestine.
By way of demonstrating their concern for acid victims, the hospital authorities had organized the event on the occasion of the World Suicide Prevention Day, when doctors explained graphically what happened when one consumes acids available in the market, like the nitric acid or hydrochloric acid.
Larynx, upper airway, pharynx, esophagus, they will all be burnt up. "Even after cleaning the intestine, the damage will not be rectified fully. The victims will survive on the feeding tube for months. They cannot swallow even their saliva and they will keep spitting. It will be a terrible ordeal, " Dr Kanagavel warned.
He also pointed out the damage would be irreparable if the patient had drunk the potion used by goldsmith, a lethal combination of nitric acid and sulphuric acid. And why do those wanting to end their lives take to acid, a very painful method of committing suicide? Because it is cheap and easy to procure.
"The shop-keeper may not care to question you hard why you want to buy it. They might presume that you are getting it only to clean your toilet, whereas when you buy rat poison or some other chemical, they will get alerted," said Dr Kanagavel.
State health minister KKSSR Ramachandran, hailing the services of the doctors, said the government would declare the gastroenterological department in the hospital a centre of excellence.