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Girl in jugglery of treatment at hospitals

Another terrible tale from the health department. Only, this time it escaped a tragic conclusion as the 15-year-old patient managed to reach a private hospital, away from the doctors of three state-run hospitals who had been experimenting on her over months with wrong medicines. The doctors had even asked her parents to take her to Delhi for treatment.

A few days ago, Sarmishtha Guha underwent a surgery at a private hospital where her ailment was diagnosed as pituitary tuberculosis — a perfectly curable disease which strangely went undetected at the hospitals.

For the past two years, Sarmishtha had been complaining of recurrent headaches. Doctors diagnosed it to be a sinus problem. Some medicines were prescribed but Sarmishtha’s headache persisted. “She showed signs of fatigue very easily and complained of weakness in school after even short drills. She could not study for long hours and was becoming weak,” her mother Jaya Guha recalled.

In May this year, her condition deteriorated, prompting her parents to take her to Medical College and Hospital. The doctors there identified her problem as sinusitis. An X-ray and nasal drops were all she was prescribed. When there was no improvement, Sarmishtha was taken to NRS Medical College and Hospital, where doctors ordered a CT scan of her brain. The scan, done in October, revealed a “spot” at the base of the brain which was deduced to be a lesion. “They gave her some medicines which again did not seem to work,” her mother said.

Soon Sarmishtha started having convulsions. Her eyes dilated and the cornea seemed to bulge out, forcing her parents to seek a second opinion, this time at SSKM Hospital.

Doctors at SSKM asked her family to get an MRI done, which revealed a brain tumour. “We were told that she would get better only if we took her to New Delhi for treatment,” her father Samik Guha said. Again, another neurologist in the same hospital recommended a few medicines before opting for a surgery.

Fed up with varying opinions at state-run hospitals, Sarmishtha’s parents decided to meet a neurologist at National Neurosciences Centre on the Peerless Hospital campus. Neurosurgeon Milind Deogaonkar and a visiting doctor from the US, Jan Jacobiski, studied her records.

The doctors suspected it to be tuberculosis. They also found that the girl was being given hormone suppression medicines which were having an adverse effect on her. “These medicines are never given without hormone tests. Normally such medicines are prescribed for only hormone-secreting tumours but the girl did not have such a problem,” Deogaonkar said.

Two days ago, doctors conducted a surgery by making a small incision in her nose and brought out tissues from the proximal region of the pituitary gland which controls hormonal secretions in the body. The tissues were tested and tuberculosis was confirmed.

Asked about the girl’s ordeal at the state hospitals, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said: “If an official complaint is lodged, I will look into the matter and take action.”

Sarmishtha, who is now recuperating, will take her Madhyamik examinations in March 2004.

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