Stories about disease

Boys should not die because of dog bites

To see your patient succumb to his last few breaths, while you stand helplessly facing the family is indeed the most testing time for a physician, especially when the patient is a 10-year-old playful child who you have known personally. I recently had the tragic experience of dealing with such a situation. Helpless as we were, we could not reverse the symptoms of Rabies, a deadly virus which is contracted through a rabid animal contact (zoonotic disease). My 10-year-old patient was bitten by a rabid dog 25 days ago while walking home from school. The unprovoked attack is typical ...

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Sometimes ‘make-do’ health care is the best treatment

As medical students, we spend about half a year, out of the strenuous five of our degree, in primary care which caters to a specific fraction of the population. The primary care centre at the Aga Khan University Hospital serves people from rural Sindh and Balochistan, with plenty of patients trickling in from Afghanistan. They come to seek expert medical advice for conditions that do not go away spontaneously or after treatment by a local practitioner. The other patients are residents of Karachi mostly from poor backgrounds; they prefer primary care at a lower cost compared to specialty consultations ...

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Busting myths about shisha

There is a common misconception in Pakistan that smoking shisha is not as harmful as smoking cigarettes. This notion exists despite the publication of research conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which shows that an average pipe smoking session of around an hour is equivalent to smoking up to 200 cigarettes. Cancer, TB and dreary consequences Scientific studies regarding the adverse health consequences of smoking shisha point to dangers that are similar to, if not worse than, those associated with smoking cigarettes. Research conducted on shisha use has clearly shown that it has particularly serious health consequences on the lungs and ...

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Does anyone care about the peacocks in Thar?

Are you aware, ladies and gentlemen, of what Tharparker’s peacocks are going through? According to a news report a strange disease is stalking them. The infected bird develops a bulge in the neck which keeps growing and then bursts. From this sore a worm crawls out. The beautiful bird turns blind and pretty soon stops breathing. The report says in Khipri and Islamkot areas of Tharparker district the situation is so bad that as many as 10 birds are dying a day from the mystery disease. The Thar peacocks did not have it easy even before this epidemic, the ever-expanding human settlements ...

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Traditional remedies: Old is not always gold

Cainophobia is the irrational or exaggerated fear of newness. If our nation had a national disease, this would most likely be it because we seem to be carrying the maxim “old is gold” to unnatural heights. Most Pakistanis have an undue fondness for traditions and cultural practices – practices that are often detrimental to them. Our obsession with rasm-o-rivaaj keeps us from relinquishing old ideas and replacing them with new and better ones.Doctors banging their heads against a wall, attempting to convince their patients to let go of their cherished (and altogether fallacious) beliefs on healthcare. The thanda-garam myth There is a widespread ...

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AIDS: Battle the disease, and the stigma

It has been almost 30 years since the symptoms of HIV/AIDS first presented themselves in 1981 in San Francisco and New York amongst young homosexual men; 27 years since the virus itself was discovered and in this time we have come a long way in figuring out how HIV spreads and what precautions to take. As far as treatment is concerned, leaps and bounds have been made and now people with the disease can live an (almost) normal life. But what has not changed in this time is the stigma attached with having the disease, the public perception and the public ...

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Pneumonia: Killing our babies every day

During the 1970s the world woke up to the realization that there was a deadly assailant on the loose who was out to get little children! So deadly was this assassin that soon people began comparing it to a jumbo jet that took off every one minute and crashed as soon as it went up killing all the 400 passengers onboard. Yes, this vicious murderer was taking the lives of 400 children every minute! After more than 30 years the brutal slayer is still at large and responsible for 19 per cent of all under-5 deaths in the world. Scarily, ...

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Breast cancer myths: It’s not as rare as you think

My aunt was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. It came as quite a shock because like everyone else, we thought cancer was something that could not possibly affect us or our loved ones. Two of my friends had already lost their mothers to cancer the same year. We were worried and consultations with doctors led to a unanimous decision that she need not go far for her treatment. Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital provides the best treatment for cancer patients. That prompt decision, early diagnosis and treatment helped my aunt get better. She is now cancer-free. Could I have breast cancer? My childhood ...

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Is a Thalassemia test too much to ask?

As I typed the list of thalassemia centers all over Pakistan, my cellphone started ringing and diverted my attention. On inquiring who was calling, I heard a sad and depressed voice on the other end. A father’s voice. I usually get calls but there was something special about this particular one. The guy got married around two years ago to the love of his life (who was his cousin). Now they have a one-year-old baby… and that baby is a thalassemia major. According to him, no one in their family had this disease, but both of them were thalassemia minor and ...

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Pakistan in the grips of shisha epidemic

Shisha also known as waterpipe, hubble bubble and hukka is a centuries old habit. Unfortunately in recent years its use has increased all over the world including Pakistan. Previously its use was limited to older people in villages but now it is being promoted in all major cities of Pakistan. Every day new shisha cafes are opening up and our youth is using it without realizing the dangers associated with it. Most five star hotels have opened up shisha corners at their restaurants. Reality check In shisha, tobacco is served to people mixed with certain flavours. Research done in the UK last year ...

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