Palghar: Teacher who lost her limbs, teaches tribal students free of cost

Updated: 18 October, 2020 07:25 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

A passionate Zila Parishad teacher from Palghar, who lost her limbs following complications in dengue, needs a fitness certificate to get her job back that doctors are too busy with COVID to give. She continues teaching kids who can't access online

Pratibha Hilim has been giving free tuitions to children in her village, as they don’t have access to online education. Pics/Hanif Patel
Pratibha Hilim has been giving free tuitions to children in her village, as they don’t have access to online education. Pics/Hanif Patel

A 50-year-old government teacher, whose upper and lower limbs were amputated in July last year, allegedly due to gangrene, has not got her salary since September 2019, as she could not get her fitness certificate from JJ Hospital due to COVID-19.

But the amputee Pratibha Hilim, who lives with her husband and two children at Karhe village in Vikramgarh taluka of Palghar district, has not lost hope, and has been giving free tuitions to tribal students living in her village. "Teaching is my passion and it gives me inner strength," said Hilim, who belongs to the Warli tribe.

Since schools have been shut due to the lockdown, and students are unable to access online education as their village is in a remote area with poor network, Hilim decided to teach the kids. "I saw the students roaming aimlessly in the village, so I decided to give them free education at home," she says. Hilim begins her classes at 9 am, and continues till 2 pm, with a lunch break in between. At present, 25 students till Class VII attend her classes at home.

Hilim with her husband Pandurang, and children Sumeet and Madhuri
Hilim with her husband Pandurang, and children Sumeet and Madhuri

Hilim, who wears prosthetic limbs, has taken her disability in her stride. She writes by placing the chalk on a belt around her right limb.

Tragedy hits

Hilim's life turned turtle last year, soon after she was appointed as teacher at Rahnal Zila Parishad School in Bhiwandi Taluka, Thane. She was to join on June 17, 2019, after being transferred from Dhonda Vadavli in the same Taluka. Two days before resuming work, she had gone to work in the paddy field in her village. "On the morning of June 17, while heading to my new school, I felt sick and became unconscious," she said.

Her son Sumeet, a civil engineer, recalled, "We were all returning to Thane in the same car. Seeing her state, we rushed her to Pramila Hospital in Thane, where the doctors told us that she is serious and referred us to Jupiter Hospital the same day." At Jupiter, she was diagnosed with dengue. "But something went amiss at the hospital. We were told that my mother had developed gangrene in her upper and lower limbs," said her daughter Dr Madhuri, who was pursuing her Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicines and Surgery (BAMS) in Ratnagiri then.

A few weeks later, the doctors amputated her right hand. But the hand wasn't healing. "We were not satisfied with the treatment at Jupiter Hospital, so a couple of days after her surgery, we rushed her to JJ Hospital in Mumbai," said Sumeet. He said that the hospital had charged the family R15 lakh. "They [doctors at Jupiter] had not even stitched her up properly after surgery. The doctor at JJ Hospital was shocked to see my mother's condition," Sumeet recalled. At JJ, her remaining limbs were amputated. But the family was only charged Rs 1,500.

Hilim was finally discharged on August 11, nearly two months after she first fell ill. She moved to her parents' home in Chalatvad in Jawhar Taluka, Palghar, to recuperate. In order to help her lead an independent life, she was referred to the Department of Prosthetics and Orthotics at All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation near Haji Ali, where she was being trained to use prosthetics.

Around the same time, the school stopped paying Hilim her salary. Now, her job is at risk. "They want me to get a fitness certificate from JJ Hospital, so that the same can be submitted to the government, so that I continue teaching in the ZP school. But, as all doctors are currently busy with COVID-19, the hospital staff has asked me to wait," said Hilim. While the wait is making her anxious, Hilim is hoping to get a transfer to a ZP school near her village to ease the commute.

Action against hospital

Meanwhile, her children are mulling taking legal action against Jupiter Hospital. "My mother did not have any health issue in the past. But after she was diagnosed with dengue, she developed gangrene within two days, and it had such a bad impact that all her four limbs had to be amputated. She was a healthy and independent woman. Now, she can't even walk or eat on her own. Her freedom has been clipped forever," said Sumeet.

When contacted, a spokesperson from Jupiter Hospital said, "The patient had come to the hospital with severe shock, very low blood pressure, and progressive multi-organ failure. She had to be first stabilised and resuscitated. She was then diagnosed with tropical fever—rickettsial fever and dengue shock syndrome."

The hospital said that during treatment, she developed vasoconstriction, gangrenous and ischemic changes in the limbs and myositis. "In such cases, mortality rate is very high. We had a multi-specialty team involved in treating the patient. With tireless efforts of the team, the patient's life was saved. The family was counselled time and again right from the time of admission."

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First Published: 18 October, 2020 07:25 IST

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