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Homemaker battles demons within

Jamshedpur, Nov. 24: You may flinch at the thought of a person habitually swallowing razor blades and sewing needles. But Mehrun Bibi of Seraikela-Kharsawan has been doing so for the three months, not once consciously, learning about her rare condition only yesterday when she took an ultrasound scan.

The 35-year-old, a resident of Millatnagar in Chandil, has donned the role of a homemaker apparently without any trouble, looking after her son Ishtiyaque (5) and performing domestic chores since her wedding just over a decade ago.

But she has been suffering loss of memory for the last two years, prompting relatives to bring her to Tata Main Hospital (TMH) for psychiatric treatment. “She used to look after the house. She was of a very docile nature and we all loved her. Do saal se bhabi chhoti chhoti cheezon ko bhulne lagi. Bhaiya unhe dimag ke doctor se ilaz karane TMH le gaye (My sister-in-law started forgetting little things at home in the last two years. My brother brought her for psychiatric treatment at TMH),” said Jamal Ansari, brother-in-law of Mehrun.

When she first complained of stomach ache, her husband Usman Ansari, a casual labourer with a Chandil-based private firm, took her to a doctor who suspected abdominal infection and prescribed medicines accordingly.

“The pain subsided after she began taking medicines. However, the stomach aches began to recur and on the advice of neighbours we brought her to Sinha Maternity and Nursing Home Centre in Mango for a thorough check-up on Thursday,” said Jamal.

Mehrun was referred to gastroenterologist Vijay Kumar, who suggested an ultrasound of the abdomen yesterday and was surprised to find objects like needles and blades. “It is one of the rarest cases I have witnessed. A patient with foreign objects like needles will have excruciating pain. But this woman has been surviving for months and none of her family was even aware of her condition,” said Kumar.

Last night, the doctor carried out endoscopic extraction and retrieved four needles. But two blades and a needle are still stuck in the intestine, which require a surgery.

“We are consulting surgeons for extraction through laparotomy (a surgical incision into the abdominal cavity) on Monday,” said Kumar.

Mehrun, who is recuperating at the hospital, said the pain was negligible now. “Mujhe kuch malum nahin chal raha hain. Mujhe ghar jana hain (I cannot sense any pain. I want to go home).”

Asked what made her swallow blades and needles, she simply said, “I used to work with needles for sewing at home, but I do not remember swallowing them.”

Doctors are worried that if she returns home after an operation, she might consume foreign objects again. “She is not from an affluent background. We are planning to consult local psychiatrists to treat her mental illness. We may also advise her to go to Ranchi for advanced treatment if her family agrees,” said Kumar.

Deepak Giri, a psychiatrist with MGM Hospital, termed it a case of psychosis where a patient resorts to action unaware of external surroundings and may wish to harm oneself.

“The exact cause of the patient’s illness can be known after knowing about her case history. But it can be treated with anti-psychosis medicines.”


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