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Not a happy birthday

Baby Habibullah Khan turns one tomorrow, but the infant whose legs have been in a plaster for 10 months doesn't have much cause for celebration

At one, most babies tend to start walking, but Habibulah Khan, who turns one on October 24, hasn't even had the chance to crawl.

The infant's legs have been in plaster for the past 10 months, as he was born with crooked legs.

His parents, Nazma Khatum and Attaullah Khan, who hail from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and work as daily wage labourers, have tried everything from heavy metal shoes to plaster to correct their son's deformity. They are now in Mumbai to seek better treatment.

"The child had crooked legs since birth. Seeing the deformity, my husband and I approached a local doctor in our village. He suggested that we put the child's legs in plaster in order to straighten them. However, since Habibulah was weak after birth, the doctor advised us to start the treatment after he turned two months old," said Khatum.

However, they could see no improvement in Habibulah's condition. The couple then went back to the doctor, who suggested another treatment -- he asked them to make Habibulah wear thick metal shoes.

"The doctor then suggested that we fit his legs with thick metal shoes in order to straighten them. We made him wear metal shoes for five months," added Khatum.

They later decided to do away with the metal shoes, since the child became quite irritable. "He used to cry constantly and couldn't sleep at night. So we decided to do away with the metal shoes and come to Mumbai to seek better medical treatment," said  Habibulah's father.

But before coming to Mumbai, the couple got their son's legs plastered again. They arrived  in the city three months ago and rented a room in Vasai.

However, they went to KEM hospital for their son's treatment only in the last week of September, as they needed to save some money.

"Both of us work as labourers on farms in our native place of Gorakhpur. Shifting to Mumbai has taken a lot of money. We needed to find work in this city to fund our son's treatment, as whatever we came with was spent in rent, deposit for the room and food," Khan added.

Khan began to work as an off loader with a steel company and Khatum took up a domestic help's assignment in Vasai. Khan earns Rs 5,000 a month, while Khatum brings in Rs 500.

Meanwhile, the doctors at KEM have advised them to keep Habibulah's legs plastered for six weeks.
Since the plaster cannot get wet and the couple can't afford to buy diapers, Khatum has to stay up through the night to clean the child when he soils himself.

Doctors from the Orthopaedic department at KEM hospital said that Habibulah has shown significant improvement after his treatment started and his legs will come to normalcy within a few weeks. 

 "I am dying to see my child without plaster. I want to see my son walk," said Khatum.

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