For two Mumbai doctors, providing free treatment for underprivileged special children has become a way of life. While the parents of these children battling disorders like autism, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy struggle with extensive medical bills, these doctors are trying to do their bit to give these patients what they deserve the most – their independence.
HEALING HALLS: Centres in Mira Road, Powai, Andheri and Goregaon offer free treatment for needy special children
Dr Sourabh Sareen, a physiotherapist, and Dr Roopesh Singh, homoeopathic, decided to provide free treatment for poor patients in the western suburbs a few years ago, in hope that after sessions of treatment that includes occupational therapy and homeeopathy, children suffering from congenital disorders would have a better quality of life. “Children suffering from disorders like autism, cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome require physiotherapy as they have low muscle tone and face difficulty with coordination. Regular sessions enable them to overcome that and they can become self-reliant and conduct their daily chores without anyone’s assistance,” said Dr Sareen.
MEDICAL HEROES: Dr Sourabh Sareen (left) and Dr Roopesh Singh with a cerebral palsy patient,Leander Rodrigues.
However, each session costs R300-R500, an amount that many parents are unable to afford on a daily basis. The doctors have put together a team of 12 people, including doctors and trained staff, to treat the unprivileged with therapy. “The parents of children born with these disorders only want the best for them, but the treatment runs up to a few lakhs per year, with regular therapy sessions and medicines. We see the profile of patients who come to us for treatment, and if the parents are unable to afford further treatment or s/he is below the poverty line, we don’t charge them, and instead counsel the parents to keep visiting our centre. We don’t have a database of the exact number of patients being given free treatment, but we’re happy to pay the staff out of our own pockets, if it means the children can become independent in the future,” said Dr Singh.
mid-day visited the Mira Road centre in Blooming Blossoms Special School, where out of 32 special students, 10 are being provided free treatment by the duo. The school owner Ratna Kakkad said the children are divided in batches of five for therapy, according to their age and IQ levels.
One of the special students, Ankit Vishwakarma (8), who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was two years old, has been undergoing speech therapy along with other treatment in the school for the past year. “I work as a carpenter and have two other children. Once we enrolled him, we were told his treatment would be free of cost. Ankit is able to walk and communicate normally, but we are hoping that with further treatment, his weak facial muscle movements will improve,” said Santosh, his father.