For housewife Rokeya Begum and her day labourer husband Shah Alam, the burden of hospital bills of Tk two lakh outweighed embracing their newborn at the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a private clinic, but humanity triumphed over money in Comilla this week as help arrived in the form of media reports and attention from the administration.
Rokeya gave birth to a premature baby boy -- born at six months and weighing 700 grammes -- on August 18 at Haziganj upazila. This was their third baby born premature; the previous two did not survive. Desperate to not have him meet the same fate, the impoverished couple borrowed money and rushed their baby to “Ma O Shihu Specialised Hospital”, a private clinic in Comilla town. Doctors there immediately admitted the baby to its NICU unit. There was hope for Rokeya and Shah Alam.
But those hopes were crushed under harsh reality when after six days, the hospital authorities asked them for the bill, amounting to around Tk 2 lakh. Already out of all the money they brought, the couple had to do what might be the hardest thing for any parent: leave their baby at the hospital and walk away.
After waiting all day for them, the clinic authorities registered a general diary with Comilla's Kotwali Police Station and informed local media about the incident, while at the same time not stopping the baby's treatment.
As the news reached Comilla's district administration, police and civil surgeon's office, they contacted the clinic and asked them to continue the baby's treatment. Comilla district police also appointed a sub-inspector to find the baby's parents. Assigned SI Syed Faruk found out that Shah Alam is from Fuljhupi village of Bakila union in Chandpur's Haziganj upazila.
Abul Basar, a member of Bakila union parishad confirmed that Shah Alam had fled his home as well, leaving his wife. Local public representatives and police met with Rokeya, and told her that the boy was still alive. They asked her to not worry about the money, and brought her to the clinic on September 5.
Dr Md. Mehedi Hasan, in-charge of NICU of the clinic, said: “The treatment of the premature baby will need to continue for another couple of months, although his condition is improving. The hospital authority has decided they will not charge anything, except for the cost of oxygen.”
Abul Fazar Mir, deputy commissioner of Comilla; Syed Nurul Islam, superintendent of police of Comilla; and Dr Mujibur Rahman, Comilla's civil surgeon, also visited the baby.
“I could not hold two of my previous children in my arms. Please return my baby to my arms,” pleaded an emotional Rokeya to those present, seeking support for his treatment.
The DC called on affluent people to help finance the baby's treatment on humanitarian grounds, and also assured to help the baby himself. SP of Comilla also assured to help the couple from police's welfare fund.
Syed Nurul Islam gave the baby the name “Drishtanto” (meaning example in Bangla).
Dr Mujibur Rahman appreciated the generosity of the clinic authorities for continuing the baby's treatment without fees.
Asked about government hospitals with NICU facilities in Comilla, he said, “There is no government hospital with NICU in Comilla district."