Saba, whose treatment and physiotherapy will need at least Rs 10 lakh, is being helped by a crowdfunding initiative by a local NGO.
wasAround the time that Shiv Sainiks were blackening Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face, a Pakistani girl and her mother were getting ready to leave Mumbai with warm memories of a 49-day stay and gratitude for Indians.
Some Indians had, after all, contributed almost Rs 13 lakh to finance 15-year-old Karachi resident Saba Tariq Ahmed’s treatment for Wilson’s disease, a disorder that results in poisonous accumulation of copper in the body, at Jaslok hospital. “Saba and her mother, Nazia, boarded an afternoon flight for Karachi. They were extremely happy about how well the treatment worked for Saba,” Jaslok hospital CEO Dr Taran Gainchandani said on Monday.
What makes Saba’s story special is that Indian citizens reached out not once, but twice between April and October, to help her financially. The first time was in April-May, when an NGO, Bluebells Community, raised Rs 7 lakh from Mumbaikars to help Saba. “But Saba did not respond too well to the regularly prescribed medicines for Wilson’s disease, ” said liver specialist, Dr Aabha Nagral, who has been treating the teen.
Dr Nagral added that Saba needed a change of medication, as well as physiotherapy to regain her movement.
As Saba’s condition deteriorated in Karachi, more Indians stepped in to help. “When Saba’s condition started worsening on her return to Karachi in May, Nazia contacted me, seeking help,” said Shabia Walia of Bluebells Community.
Thus, the online crowdfunding effort started on Independence Day to collect Rs 10 lakh for a three-month treatment with an alternative medication that is not freely available in India or Pakistan.
“We spread Saba’s story so far and wide that we got an American NGO, Rachel and Drew Katz Foundation, contributing Rs 4 lakh and a London-based NGO promising free supply of medicines,” said Walia.
When Bluebells Community volunteers received Saba at Mumbai airport on August 24, she was wheelchair-bound, could not speak and had tremors and abnormal involuntary movements due to the severity of the disease.
“But we started her on physiotherapy as well as the alternative drug, Trientine (which helps remove copper accumulation from the body,” said Dr Nagral. Procuring the drug was not easy as it is not manufactured in India and 100 capsules cost Rs 84,000. “Saba is on two capsules a day, but it should be stepped up to five soon,” said Dr Nagral, who took the teenager to eat out in Bandra. “Saba is a fan of Salman Khan and wanted to meet him, so I took her to this theme restaurant that is inspired by the actor,” said Nagral.
On what Saba or her mother Nazia felt, the doctor said, “Nazia said she had been warned that things would not be smooth in India, and she was happy that her fears did not come true. She said Mumbai had been full of warmth and happiness for her and her daughter,” said Dr Nagral.