Things I learnt when I was’nt looking

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t has now been about 5 months since I began working at REACH. Our little 3 room office and all its happening amaze me still, here are some of the things I have learnt:

1. Share your lunch – a family that eats together, stays together

2. Pat each other on the back for a job well done – no matter how small the job!

3. A day spent cleaning out the storage space in the “dark room” is a day spent well!

4. You can never be too busy to enquire about how someone/ their kids/ their spouse/ their dog is doing?

5. When you are frustrated to the point nothing seems to make sense – laugh, at the silliness of it all. C’est la vie. (Note to all: Sheela, Program Manager at REACH, teaches  this well)

Neha Lamech

REACH Blog Team

A Happy Coming Together

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It was a moment of triumph for me to see Surya walk into the Medavakkam REACH DOTS centre with her little bundle of joy cuddled up between her arms. Surya had happiness written across her face as she beamed with glee.  A total contrast to what she was when I first met her two weeks back.

Surya’s brother had come to the DOTS centre with a referral from the Medavakkam Government Hospital to start her on DOTS. Surya stayed at her parental home as part of the custom after delivery, usually followed to allow a woman recuperate her health after child birth before she goes back to her husband’s home. I met an extremely gloomy looking girl who seemed to be disinterested in what I had to say . When I enquired what  her grief was about, her parents  told  me that she had delivered a baby two weeks ago, after which she had severe cough. Surya was diagnosed with Tuberculosis at the Government TB Sanatorium. When they consulted their nearby family doctor, he advised her husband to take the baby away from her and stop her from nursing the baby. He said they could give back the baby to her after she started to feel better.

I immediately called her husband and requested him to meet me at the DOTS centre. He did not turn up. Meanwhile I started Surya on treatment. A week later her husband visited me, I explained to him that a mother does not spread the disease through breast milk. I also made it clear to him that his wife was a sputum negative patient, and that such patients do not spread the disease. I also told him that after two weeks of treatment a patient is safer and does not spread the disease.” Please don’t deprive your baby of her mother’s milk, a right of every child to good health” I explained. I further gave them the number of the Medical Officer from the Medavakkam Government Tuberculosis Unit, from whom they could further verify and get a second opinion on what I had said. However, understanding, what I said and clear of all his misconceptions, Surya’s husband handed over the baby to her.

After the tragic separation Surya and her little one are now back together, happy and engrossed in each other’s company.           


REACH Blog Team

From Belgium with Love

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Inspired by a book she read on Mother Theresa as a teenager Elona dreamt of coming to India ever since. She longed to do something on the lines of what Mother Theresa had done. Her passion brought her to the country three years back. She worked for two months through an NGO  with the homeless people on the ghats of the river Ganga  at Varanasi in North India. Elona is back again from the land of chocolates to India, this time in the south, in Tamil Nadu, at Chennai . She is now married and has come with her  husband,  an engineer, who has been sent to India on a project for a three year period.

Elona is deeply grateful  to her husband who has kindly permitted her to work  with the slum dwellers of S. M. Nagar. Wanting to pursue her dream again, Elona approached Philip, the Project Manager of Speed Trust, an NGO which works for the wellbeing and development of the people of S.M. Nagar. Understanding her desire to help, Philip gave Elona an opportunity to extend a touch of love and comapssion to the slum dwellers.

A qualified nurse by profession, Elona treats the people who come to Speed Trust with minor ailments. She uses her expertise to help patients with wounds by dressing them up. When the person needs more medical attention, she accompanies them to Kalyani hospital and is instrumental in getting them the required medical help.

Couple of months back, when REACH organised a TB awareness program at S. M. Ngar, two patients with Tuberculosis were identified, Elona took up the responsibility of being their DOTS provider. She houses the drug box at the Speed Trust  office where the patients come and swallow their tablets in her presence. She also gives one of the patients his injections, for whom it is part of the treatment.

“Being in India for me is an opportunity to learn a new culture and meet new people. What I am doing is very minimal in a land where a lot more has to be done. If every one can spare a little time out, a lot can be changed” Elona.

“When the patient fails to come for his days dose, Elona immediately takes his tablets and injection and walks throuth the streets of S. M. Nagar to reach the patients house not paying heed to the extremely filthy and nauseating condition around her. She does all this on an honorary basis. I am really taken aback by this young lady’s deep rooted  compassion to help people in need” Chitra

M. Chitra

REACH Blog Team

She Sings to Stop TB

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“May the Lord be with you in all your journeys to the villages as you work towards spreading the TB message to build healthier communities” said Theresa as she blessed us when we left Anupampet village.  At 65, Theresa has a remarkably ethereal and capturing voice, which she has come forward to lend us.

The NREGA program which is a government scheme to ensure employment for people in rural areas is being implemented in 55 villages through out the Minjuir district in North Madras. We at REACH have come up with a plan to carry out TB sensitization programs at all these workplaces. We have completed 7 such programs, during one of which we got to meet Theresa who spontaneously came up to us and sang a few songs to demonstrate her singing skills. She since then has joined us during programs and helps draw crowds for a program by singing TB songs before we start the actual program

Extremely enthusiastic and positive about the changes we can create in terms of better health for these people, Theresa serves as a great source of inspiration for us.

Sai Dinakar

REACH Blog Team

A Cured Patient Stopping TB

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Thirumal is a 42 year old patient who has just been cured from Tuberculosis after undergoing DOTS treatment through the REACH Minjuir DOTS centre. Couple of months back Thirumal was in bad shape. He could barely stand on his feet and couldn’t even go about his daily duties without assistance. Cured now and aware of the nature of the disease,Thirumal talks about the disease and its symptoms to people in his vicinity. He assists the REACH staff at the DOTS centre in creating awareness in the community by distributing pamphlets containing TB information and by mobilizing people to attend TB talks.

“I want a community free of TB” says Thirumal.

Sai Dinakar

REACH Blog Team

Doctors Stopping TB

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Dr. Raghu Nanda Kumar, at his Care & Cure clinic.

Dr. Raghu Nanda Kumar stops TB by referring TB patients from his Care and Cure clinic for DOTS treatment. He says patients in the periurban areas are unable to adhere to treatment due to the high cost of TB drugs. Free drugs supplied through the DOTS strategy is a boon for such patients and enables them to complete treatment elaborates Dr. Raghu.

‘I want more patients in periurban areas to use the DOTS program” says Dr. Raghu.

REACH Blog Team

The Role of the Field Officers is fundamental for the Success of DOTS

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Dr. SangeethaBalasubramaniam, M. D.,
Consultant Physician, Diabetes &Hypertension Specialist

A modest two room clinic with all the essentials in place is what describes Dr. Sangeetha’s practice space on a narrow lane occupied with automobile shacks at Border Thottam, Mount Road. This busy, young doc who portrays the perfect picture of a compassionate doctor, has been doing DOTS for the past four years and has put fifteen of her patients on DOTS so far.

Dr. Sangeetha, as a policy, immediately waivers her consultation fee for a patient when he or she is diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Her team at the clinic which includes two nurses; Latha and Nisha do a good job in motivating patients to get back on track when they loose to follow-up.

Her first encounter with DOTS was through REACH and feels it is an essential tool for a lower middle class area like Border Thottam where potential patients exist. “TB treatment is a long process which makes close follow up an essential. DOTS avails this kind of follow up and free drugs too. The role of the field officers is crucial in the success of DOTS. They coordinate with us and engage in all forms of needed networking to help a patient towards cure. I have shown up for two workshops arranged by REACH for private practitioners which I find very useful. To help a patient complete treatment I take up different roles in terms of being a kind friend to a strict police man” explains Dr.Sangeetha.

REACH Blog Team

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