A sombre mood hangs heavy in Kuhi village located in the interiors of Odisha. For over a decade now its residents have been struck by a silent kidney ailment which no one can find a cause for.
As of August 2013, with one death and other members of their community in a critical condition, the concerns of the people as well as their desire to find the root of the ailment has increased.
Community Correspondent Mamta Patra has been present with the people to document their problems. What started as a routine issue video has evolved into an urgent appeal from the people of Kuhi. Mamta tells us about what has been happening there.
After making a few videos on the issues in Rairhakhol block, Mata has become a known figure in the community. Early in July she got a phone call from a resident of Kuhi asking her to come meet the people. Mamta agreed.
“When I reached there and spent the day talking and trying to understand the situation, what hit me immediately was the atmosphere of fear. In the past 3 years, 9 people have died. At the moment, 5 people are in a critical condition”, she says.
After making the issue video Mamta has spent more time researching in the neighbourhood and found that a total of 18 people from 3 villages have the same kidney problem. In each of the cases the symptoms are the same. The disease remains dormant and appears as a renal failure in its final stages and in most cases lethal.
On diagnosis, medicines and regular check ups help but for most in this village, access to both is difficult to say the least. While the medicines are prohibitively expensive, the nearest block level medical centre has no kidney specialist and the only option is to travel to Burla, 3 hours away, or Cuttack, 6 hours away.
“I have been living on medicines for the time being, but for how long?” says Trilochan Dehury a patient who has been bed ridden for the last 3 months.
So there it was. The 50 families were tired of living in uncertainty, of not being given proper medical attention. Through the video Mamta made, she hoped to establish a strong case that would help the residents of the village get access to fast and reliable healthcare. As Mamta prepared to send her video in to the Goa office, she found that one villager had died and that Trilochan’s health had taken a turn for the worse.
This was unfortunately the catalyst that was needed to bring much-needed attention to the issue. Through her network Mamta managed to mobilise the Chief District Medical Officer into action. It took many phone calls but eventually Trilochan was admitted to the VVS Burla Medical Hospital and luckily for him the new nephrology specialist had just joined the team.
She also got the CDMO to start carrying out a research on what is causing the problem. On 27th August, the CDMO along with 2 doctors collected water samples from Kuhi.
Trilochan received his first dialysis this afternoon. He is still in danger but the doctors have assured the family that he will recover and come home soon. The struggle of the people of Kuhi however continues and Mamta has decided to see the issue through. On behalf of the families she has put forward the below demands:
1- Provide free treatment (medicines, stay for relatives, travel expenses) to all serious patients.
2- A Specialist Doctor should visit at the Sub Divisional Medical Centre, Rairhakhol at frequent intervals.
3- Carry out an inquiry into the incidents and make the report public with the residents of the area.
4- Take concrete actions like regular health check ups in Kuhi and neighbouring villages.
Call to Action: Please call Minakshi Mohanty, Chief District Medical Officer on 09439986001 and ask her to ensure that the above steps are carried out.