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Kaveri and Anaemia

Kaveri is 10 years old, lives in Thattankuttai, and is the eldest daughter in a family of 9 children. Four of her siblings have sadly died in the past few years. Papati, Kaveri’s mother sought help from HEAL workers when Kaveri was having severe stomach pain.

The HEAL worker suggested that Kaveri’s mother take her to the Odogathur Government Hospital. The girl was given an injection into her stomach and was sent home. Kaveri did not improve.

The next week, a health camp was run by HEAL in Thattankuttai, and Kaveri, along with her brother, saw the doctor.The health camp doctor referred Kaveri, for her pain, along with her brother, Sivakasi and her mother, Papati to the hospital for serious anaemia. Both Sivakasi and Papati were diagnosed with only slight anaemia, but Kaveri was suspected as having an intestinal block and suggested that she be admitted to hospital immediately. Kaveri’s father refused angrily, and Papati took Kaveri back home, fearing her husband may become violent.

Soon after, with Kaveri’s condition worsening, a HEAL worker brought Kaveri back, along with her parents, 3 days later. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection, and was treated and discharged after 3 days. She returned to the hospital soon after she was discharged, with abdominal pain, and was again diagnosed with a kidney infection.

The family had not told the doctor that 4 of their children had previously died, and when this information was finally divulged to the senior doctor, she decided to perform blood tests for all the family members, in order to investigate whether Kaveri’s pain and kidney infections could be linked genetically. This being the most likely case, Kaveri was cured and discharge, and her mother was given medicine to take regularly.

Anaemia is a huge problem in many rural areas of India, including Tamil Nadu. Nearly every woman in Thattankuttai has been found to suffer from anaemia. Anaemia is commonly considered to be due to an iron deficiency; however it can be much more complex. Anaemia is cause by a reduced amount of haemoglobin in the blood, resulting in fewer red blood cells than normal. Although iron deficiency is the most common type of anaemia, it is not the only cause. Other forms of anaemia can be due to lack of vitamin B12 (which helps keeps the nervous system healthy) or folate (lack of folic acid in diet) in the body. Anaemia is easily treated with an improved diet and vitamin supplements. However, any underlying causes must also be treated, or anaemia could return.

For more information on anaemia, please click here.

So why is anaemia such a problem in India? Anaemia in Tamil Nadu is predominantly due to a lack of iron in daily diets. The usual diet in Thattankuttai and many other villages in Tamil Nadu consist of tamarind water and rice. Once a flourishing farming area, droughts have increasingly made growing vegetables difficult and meat is extremely expensive, so access to iron rich foods can be problematic.

Furthermore, knowledge of such health problems is either not widely known or grossly misunderstood. Many of the people living in such rural areas either do not seek medical treatment and when they do, their diagnoses are not fully explained, so the patient walks away with no idea what their illness is and with a handful of medication, but no instructions on how to take it or why it is important. For this reason, many people do not take the medicine or vitamin’s they need and illness becomes a recurring problem.

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