Dr. Uday Bodhankar, a renowned senior paediatrician and secretary-general of the UK-based Commonwealth Association of Health and Disability spoke with Nagpur Today about current health issues in Nagpur. We bring to your excerpt from the interview.
Practice Details : consuling pediatrician
Stream : Allopathy
Specialty : Neonatology | Pediatrics | Family Practice
Meghna– Nagpur Today: How difficult is it to diagnose and treat children, as compared to adults?
Dr. Bodhankar: The most important difference between an adult and a child is that a child, especially a newborn, cannot express what is bothering them, what the problem is. We have to depend on the symptoms described by the parents, and on the child’s presentation and behaviour. An adult, for example, can tell you that he has a stomach ache. In the case of a newborn baby, all we get is the mother telling us that the child is crying.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: What are the most common cases that you see everyday?
Dr. Bodhankar: It depends on the season. Now, we see more cases of viral fever, respiratory inflation, bronchitis, diarrhoea, dysentery and jaundice cases, due to water impurity. We are also getting cases of Malaria and Dengue, because of the mosquito menace and lack of electricity in villages.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: What is the immediate reaction of most parents when you inform them that their child has a disability? How do you break the news to them, and how important is it to counsel the parents in such cases?
Dr. Bodhankar: Counselling the parents is most important in such cases. Usually, the parents already have some suspicion on doubt in their minds when they come to us. Our diagnosis helps to either clear or support that doubt. We don’t come to conclusions immediately. If the child is young, we ask the parents to wait and observe for some time, as the brain takes time to mature in some cases. There is a process that we go through- first assessing the child, then diagnosing the problem, then asking a specialist like a neurologist or a developmental therapist for opinion.
It is undoubtedly traumatic for the parents. One has to reveal it to them gradually, and have an empathetic approach.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: How important is it to diagnose these problems early?
Dr. Bodhankar: Early intervention, diagnosis and prevention are important. Some of the problems are preventable. Some, like Hyperthyroid, are entirely curable upon early detection.
In mental cases such as Cerebral Palsy, early detection is important from the rehabilitation point of view. As far as learning disabilities is concerned, early diagnosis and understanding of the area in which the child has a problem- be it writing, reading or method, definitely helps. Early remedial measures can then be taken to help the child overcome that problem, without having to label them as disabled.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: What are the most common birth defects and how curable are they?
Dr. Bodhankar: Most common are the cases related to Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or baby weight. Intrauterine Hypoxia, which happens when the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen, either due to late birth, Caesarean or for other reasons. It might lead to hypoxic (lack of oxygen) brain damage, which may lead to problems like Cerebral Palsy. If a premature baby is not properly taken care of, it may also have disabilities.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: How disable- friendly do you think Nagpur city is today?
It is not disable- friendly at all. Fortunately, Union Minister Mukul Wasnik, who is an authority on disabilities, has formed a separate ministry to look after this, in the Government of India. In the city, the attitude of the people needs to change. They must look at a disabled person, not with sympathy or pity, but with empathy. Community orientation, sensitisation and participation are important.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a centre where diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation are available under one roof in the city. A child has to be taken to a number of different specialists before identification and treatment can begin.
Most of our public places like bus stops, theatres and railway stations aren’t disable- friendly either, even with regard to simple things like railings to hold on to while climbing stairs.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: How has being a part of the Commonwealth Association of Health and Disability helped this field in India?
Dr. Bodhankar: As a commonwealth association, COMHARD is covering 53 countries of the world. Funding is an issue. Hence, we are focussing on underdeveloped and developing countries, holding CMEs (Continuous Medical Education), seminars and workshops in these countries. Our focus is on African and South Asian countries, including India.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: How has working with the Commonwealth Association of Health and Disability impacted your own knowledge and working?
Dr. Bodhankar: I have had to restrict my practice to 5:00 pm in the evening, since I need to stay up late every night working for the COMHAD. I get great relief and pleasure in it, since it gives me a chance to reach out to the underprivileged in many places.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: What are your views on the PWD (People With Disabilities) Act? Do you think the revision it is going through is necessary?
Dr. Bodhankar: I think that the most important new clause being added to the Act is the one regarding Insurance for the disabled. That is definitely required. At my hospitak, we charge much lower rates for the underprivelged, but even so, when you have a problem that requires constant care and treatment it becomes a financial load for life. Insurance company schemes always have loopholes that cost people dear, after paying years of premium. Money should not be an issue.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: Can you tell us of any one incident in the course of your career that made you feel proud to be a doctor?
Dr Bodhankar: During the first few years of my practice, a young couple came with their newborn, who was having breathing problems. In those days, even a ventilator was unavailable in most hospitals in the city. After trying with a pump, I started losing hope and told them that the only way to save the child was to take it to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. To the credit of both parents, they said they were ready. I called up a senior of mine at Jaslok and asked him to have an ambulance ready at Mumbai airport. The couple left Nagpur city at 6:00 pm by flight and reached the Mumbai hospital at 9:30 pm. The baby was being pumped with air all the way, with a staff- member of mine who accompanied them. That man has aloes been highly commended. Fortunately, the newborn survived. It still seems a miracle to me.
Meghna- Nagpur Today: Any message for Nagpur Today?
Dr. Bodhankar: This is a very good platform to have opened in the city. You have my best regards. I hope we can work together to make the city aware about health and medicine, so we can save them the pain and expenditure of having to visit doctors like me.