By Joseph Suess
17-year-old Shalini is the eldest in a family of 6 children, whose parents are street vendors on a dusty Bombay throughway. When our team first met Shalini, we found her very outgoing, intelligent and warm-natured. This was despite serious deformities in her left leg, the results of a battle with polio, which caused the affected leg to be over 2 inches shorter than her right leg. In order to walk, Shalini braced her leg using her left hand as a type of human crutch.
Shalini contracted poliovirus as a young girl in her native India, a country where polio still claims thousands of victims today. Due to her handicap, and the fact that she grew up in a slum, she was only able to receive basic schooling.
A rewarding career seemed out of reach.
Then Shalini met some Polio Child Relief (PCR) workers, who strive to better the lives of young polio victims. * PCR workers partner with health care providers and specialists in order to find solutions for an otherwise debilitating disease.
In this case PCR enlisted the help of Dr. Paresh Desai, a correctional surgery specialist trained to help children with deformities.
Shalini's father, a proud man, initially refused help when approached with the offer of correctional surgery for his daughter. Her mother, however, realized the potential for her daughter's future, and worked to change his mind.
Shalini is now nearing the end of treatment, and is excited about the future. For the first time in her life she has reason to believe she can fulfill her personal dream. Shalini wants to be a nurse, and her recent medical analysis is in support of that view.
During a recent follow-up visit, workers met with her father again, who thanked them profusely.
Joseph Suess is the Project Manager of Polio Child Relief, a FCF Project in Mumbai (Bombay), India
* PCR volunteers visit slum areas to locate children in need of polio-related correctional surgery, and qualified applicants are then admitted to Shradda Hospital, where they receive a free examination and surgery. Complimentary follow-up care is also provided, as is counsel for the patient's family. Additionally, Polio Child Relief is involved in finding sponsors to cover the cost of further operations and expenses in extreme hardship cases.