Hyderabad: Type 1 diabetes continues to place a big financial burden on a patient’s family. Also known as juvenile diabetes, patients with it need insulin for survival. And insulin doesn’t come cheap — patients have to spend anywhere up to Rs 5,000 for sufficient quantities for a month. It is the underprivileged class that suffers the most because of this.
Syed Samdan (14) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just nine years old. His family’s life has not been the same since. His father Syed Habeeb (42) used to be a cloth wholesaler but had to stop working when he suffered a stroke a couple of years ago.
“I was very worried about getting my son treated. I would be tense all the time about where I would get the money to buy his medicines. I suffered a stroke because of that. I am partially paralysed waist down,” he said. There are no breadwinners in the family today; Habeeb’s wife passed away last year. They depend entirely on charitable institutions such as the Helping Hand Foundation (HHF) for monetary assistance. Young Syed Samdan has stopped going to school because it was difficult to keep tabs on his diet.
“His friends used to feed him chocolates and other stuff, which would increase his sugar levels massively. Last year, he ate too much sugar and went into a coma. It took him 10 days to recover. I made him stop going to school after that,” says his father.
Government hospitals such as Gandhi, Osmania General and NIMS have special programmes that give free insulin, which diabetics need to balance their sugar levels. But Mujtaba Hasan Aksari from HHF said most patients are either unaware of this or simply don’t trust government hospitals. “Government hospitals give free insulin vials, along with providing free consultation. But a lot of the people who come to us for help say they won’t go to them.
They are distrustful of the bureaucracy there and think the treatment will be inferior in nature,” says Mr Aksari who believes that diabetes patients, and not just those with Type 1 diabetes, must be brought into the public health system. “Many people cannot afford insulin injections. Families beg, borrow or steal for them. Since they are so costly, we have seen cases where patients skip doses or take smaller than required doses to save insulin. If the government wakes up to this problem and promotes diabetes treatment, it will be really helpful to everyone,” he said.
There indeed seems to be distrust about government hospitals. Nooruddin Mohammed (25) was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes a few years ago. In his childhood, he was afflicted with polio, which has left him immobile. His mother Shaheena Begum said, “My husband is a car driver. We don’t have the money to buy insulin.
Family members usually help us with the expenses.” Mohammed’s family takes him only to private clinics. Also, though he is a graduate, he sits at home since his disability and the diabetes are too difficult to manage. “We tried going to Osmania Hospital when he was diagnosed, but they were not helpful. They made us run around from one office to another for four days. For a wheelchair for my son, they charged us Rs 200. We spent Rs 2,000 on auto rickshaw rides alone. The whole exercise was useless,” she said.
In addition to insulin, Mohammed takes a course of Unani medicine. His family was told it would improve his condition.
Dr V.K. Bhargava, chairman of the Telangana chapter of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India, warns against Type-1 diabetes patients subscribing to alternative medicine systems....