Stories about illness

Would you marry an epileptic girl?

When I was younger, a pretty girl named Sarah* used to live in my neighborhood. I would often notice her on my way to school. Sarah was like any other girl, but a little quiet. I did not know much about her. Then, a few years back, her family moved away from our neighborhood. A few days before they left, the girl’s sister came to my house to meet my mother. She told my mother that her brother, an educated web developer, was not allowing Sarah to get married because she suffered from epilepsy. Her brother thought that after marriage, her husband and in-laws ...

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Are disease and death punishments from God?

A common idea prevalent in Pakistan is that disease and death, especially if they are severe, debilitating and disfiguring, have to be punishments from God, for acts done in the past. The fact that this idea is common among those who do not have knowledge of the sciences is not surprising, since they have grown up with superstitions. However, hearing the same rant from a medical student or a science student is not only disturbing but also depressing, since a medical student knows that most illnesses have known causes. These perceptions are more common when diseases that are sexually transmitted are ...

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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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After recovery: Who wants a woman like you?

This week I visited the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) in the Shadman area of Lahore with my class. We noticed a stark difference between the men’s ward and the women’s ward. It was a heartbreaking experience. I came to realize that the stigma of being a “mental patient” can mean loneliness and isolation for all psychiatric patients, especially women. The men’s ward When we entered the men’s ward we saw a group of men clad in bright blue shalwar kameez and mismatched sweaters. They were seated on rough carpets on the floor, basking in the warmth of the winter sun. These were the stable ...

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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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Bronchial Asthma, under-diagnosed and under-treated

There has been a sharp increase in the global prevalence, morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of Asthma over the last 40 years, particularly in children. Approximately 300 million people worldwide currently have asthma, and its prevalence increases by 50 per cent every decade. In Pakistan, 10 per cent of children and 5 per cent of the adult population suffer from asthma. Asthma is under-diagnosed and under-treated in our country.  Most asthma deaths are preventable. Asthma deaths are mostly caused by inadequate long-term medical care or delays in receiving medical help during an acute attack. People with asthma can live a normal ...

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