| Dr Samir Dasgupta does a check-up on patients at the foundation's monthly camp. Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee
Calcutta Heart Clinic in Salt Lake wears a busy look on the first Sunday of the month. Children play as parents wait in queue and teenagers sit alone, weighed down with worry. Affected with Type I diabetes even before reaching the full bloom of youth, they have gained a companion for life ' the insulin vial.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been providing them this lifeline. 'We give bovine insulin free to patients who cannot afford it,' says Manjushree Dhar of the foundation.
The people who wait for a check-up and collection of the months' dose look every bit in need of help. Some of the families have already been pushed over the brink by juvenile diabetes. The Karmakars of Arambagh were a happy middle class lot till Soma, their younger child, was struck with the disease. Wrong diagnosis at the local hospital and a blood-sucking bill from a private clinic in Calcutta meant the carpenter had to sell off his shop.
'We had to save every paise to garner about Rs 500 to buy insulin. I had to take our son out of school as well.' Two years later, they heard of the diabetes foundation.
Still they can call themselves lucky. Nineteen-year-old Dolly Kalapahar's father, a daily labourer, died of anxiety over her expensive treatment as they had not heard of the foundation then. Mother and diabetic daughter now do not have a source of income. At least the foundation takes care of their medical need.
Yet the supply line is in need of a lifeline itself.
'We are helping out about 40 patients at present. Even then, we cannot always provide everyone provision for more than two weeks at a time. As many of them cannot afford the travel expense more than once a month, this means going without insulin once they run out of stock.'
New applicants have to be turned down. 'The foundation is completely dependant on donations. It costs us about Rs 4000 a year for every patient. When we do not have enough, we pool in from our own pockets,' Dhar says.
Another problem is of space. 'Calcutta Heart Clinic authorities allow us to use their premises once a month. But we do not have an address to operate from.'
It is the support of eminent physicians who offer their services free that is keeping the foundation going. A shot in the arm is the need of the hour.