The youngest Junky…….

Little Geeta was all of six months when I saw her……She was absolutely normal, gurgling with pleasure when tickled and made adorable baby sounds…She was brought in to the outpatients by her parents who were daily laborers  at a building construction site near the hospital…They were from Rajasthan…Both parents looked weather beaten with rough callused hands, but possessed impressive innate dignity…..

“Doctor Sahib” said the father, ” Geeta’s face is malformed. Who will marry her with a torn lip?” On examination, I found that the child had a congenital abnormality called “hare lip”..Medical terminology for this is “Cleft Lip”….It is easily corrected by plastic surgery needing only two days of hospital stay….I assured the parents that treatment for Geeta’s condition was simple. “There is no danger to life is there Doctor?” asked her mother hesitantly…None at all, I reassured the parents….I put in a tongue depressor to look for an associated cleft of the palate, but was relieved to find that the palate was whole and normal…..All this while Geeta was very sleepy and did not protest the examination that I did…”What a wonderful child, very cooperative” I remarked to my fellow resident…..My mind kept telling me that something was not quite OK….

Geeta got admitted the next week and underwent a Millard’s procedure….My boss who was a plastic surgeon made very short work of it and Geeta’s face looked whole again. She was sent to the Ped Surgery ward….

On my evening rounds, I heard Geeta’s crying from the third floor….I hurried to the children’s ward in the ground floor and found chaos….Geeta was crying at the top of her voice…She had woken up the other children who joined in the chorus…The noise was deafening….Geeta’s father was impotently wringing his hands…Her mother had gone home to cook for her twelve year old boy…

I checked the operation wound and found it to be OK…..Geeta kept sneezing repeatedly…She had no cold as far as I could see…Her vitals were normal…Normal breathing….I ordered a very small dose of pethidine, which is a pain killer….Geeta quietened down and gradually slept….

My intercom burred….I blearily got up and looked at the watch…..It was 4 AM….It was the pediatric ward….Geeta had woken up half an hour ago and started to cry again and wouldn’t stop….I dressed and hurried to the ward….

The scene was similar to that in the previous evening…..She had a fit of sneezing, but otherwise stable….All her limbs were held tightly extended and her face was beet red due to crying…

I was in a quandary…Do I repeat a dose of pethidine? I had already given her a shot around six hours ago….I didn’t want to overdose her….

Geeta’s father looked perplexed and scared…”Doctor Sahib, Is there something wrong?” I told him that she was fine except for her crying….Her mother in the meanwhile reached into the folds of her ghagra and brought out a small pouch….She took out a brownish paste and before I could prevent it, rubbed it on Geet’s tongue….Geeta sucked up the paste, gave a beatific smile and promptly went to sleep!

I was totally perplexed….What was this paste? Geeta seemed to recognize the taste of the paste…

I asked the mother what was in the paste…Her answer floored me….”It is bhang (Opium), Doctor Sahib” Geeta will not sleep unless I give her a small quanity”…

The whole sordid story came out…Geeta’s parents had migrated to Mumbai to escape drought in their village….They had found work at a construction site…..All three would work the whole day to earn enough to feed themselves and send a small amount home for their parents….At the construction site, there was no one to look after Geeta…the mother would rub opium paste on her tongue three to four times in a day to keep her quiet….

I explained to the mother about the dangers of addiction at such a young age…The mother nodded and said she would bring Geeta to the de-addiction center….I never saw her again in the hospital….

Author: drshirahatti

I am a surgeon, specializing in Gastrointestinal Surgery...I have headed the Departments of GI surgery, General Surgery and Medical Education.....I also was the Dean of two large government hospitals in Mumbai.....I like reading about cultures and like to travel....

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