Struggling to cover hospital bill after home, savings lost
Source: Chronicle News Service / Brojendro Thounaojam

Imphal, August 19 2023: While it s a common understanding that life holds its share of unpredictability, the sheer scale of misfortune that has struck thousands of families in the state is beyond anyone's anticipation.

These farpilies have been subjected to loss of their homes, hard-earned life savings, and other assets in the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The present state of affairs within the region has plunged numerous families into an abyss of despair and financial hardship, a struggle from which recovery could take a lifetime.

In times of tragedy, it is often the most underprivileged who bear the worst brunt of its impact.

This narrative is echoed in the story of Sanabam Prema, a 25-year-old unmarried resident of Torbung Bangla in Bishnupur district.

Her life savings, along with her residence and all possessions, have been lost the crisis.

Today, with no viable means to cover her medical expenses, Prema finds herself confined to a hospital bed in the general ward of Shija Hospital and Research Institute, Langol.

Her heart aches for improved health and she clings to the hope of aid from compassionate organizations or individuals.

Prema was experiencing some discomfort in the last weeks of January and she went to Churachandpur district hospital, which has been upgraded into a medical institute recently, in the first week of February to consult a doctor there.

After some routine tests, doctors told her that she has stones in both her kidneys and she will need surgery to remove the stone as medications will not help.

Prema, who belongs to a poor family, was shocked to learn about her condition and she was sad thinking how her family could afford her treatment.

Notwithstanding her family's circumstances, her spirit remained unbroken.

Determined to secure funds for her impending surgery, she took up a job at an embroidery shop.

Despite battling her own health challenges, she persisted through discomfort and laboured tirelessly.

After dedicating herself for approximately three months, she managed to accumulate a modest sum for her medical expenses.

Her aspiration was to continue working for some more months before undergoing the critical surgery.

Yet, destiny had a different course in mind.

The ominous date of May 3rd unfolded, snatching away not just her hard-earned savings but also her cherished home and belongings.

The fruits of her labor, accumulated through her toil at the embroidery shop, were either pillaged or engulfed in flames by marauding Kuki mobs, accompanied by armed militants, which surged through her village.

In the frantic race to escape, she and her family, much like their neighbors, were left with no time to gather their savings, possessions, or even clothing.

They fled with only the clothes on their backs, with some not even having the luxury of picking up their footwear.

Her father, Ibouchou, had passed away, and her mother, Thaballei, is currently ailing, spending most of her days confined to bed.

Among her siblings, she has five brothers and one sister.

Her stepmother Memcha used to vend vegetables in the Churachandpur market, shouldering the responsibility of sustaining the family.

Given the absence of a steady income, survival for the family relied on undertaking odd jobs to make ends meet.

In the May 3 incident, in which her village was one of the first villages to face the onslaughts of the Kuki mobs, who were on a rampage in the afternoon of May 3, she and her family took shelter in the house of her aunt in Moirang Khunnou.

On the next day, a relief camp was set up at Upper Primary School, Moirang Khunnou Khongnang Mak-hong and they shifted there the very same day.

The local volunteers, who were running the relief camp for over three months, are also facing all kinds of hardships in ensuring regular supply of foods and other essential items even though relief assistance from different individuals and local groups as well as from the government arrived there from time to time.

As multiple camps are being set up in different parts of the state, the relief assistance provided by individuals and local groups are also dwindling with each passing day.

Amid such hardships faced by the volunteers and the displaced people, Prema found the care she used to receive in the initial days getting lesser.

As her condition worsen, she began to pass bloody urine and her hands and legs swelling, she understood that she can no longer stay at the relief camp without getting any treatment.

She somehow, managed to get in contact with some kind-hearted people through some of her friends, who are on the lookout for people in distress for extending whatever help they could give.

One of them turned out to be a differently abled person, who had lost his sight, and almost all of them are people like her, who do not have good source of income but are willing to help people in distress with whatever small contribution they could make.

The group of people took her to Shija Hospital at Langol in Imphal and admitted her there on Thursday.

Prema and her family, despite being a poor family, does not have CMHT or PMJAY cards, which could help them in her treatment.

However, the group of people took her Aadhaar Card and mobile number, and managed to secure a CMHT card in her name on Thursday itself.

They also talked with the administration of Shija Hospital and her surgery was conducted on Thursday itself.

Though the surgery was conducted successfully and she no longer has to worry about her health, the one thing that begins to haunt her in her hospital bed is the bill, which she has to pay before leaving the hospital.

Though she had secured a CMHT card, the assistance provided by the government under the scheme is not enough to cover the entire hospital bill and she has to arrange additional fund to pay the balance bill, which is something she is worrying about.

Amid the mixed emotion of happiness, sadness and melancholy she has due to the loss of her home, properties, savings, getting her surgery done successfully and worry about the hospital bill, Prema expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the group of people who took her to the hospital to get her surgery done and secured a CMHT card.

The thing that makes her more grateful is the fact that all of the members of the group of people are strangers to her and she believes that they have given her a new lease of life.

She also expressed her belief that having more such kind-hearted and selfless people would definitely make the society a better place to live in.

Though she has a bleak future lying ahead of her, one thing that comes into her mind after the encounter with the group of people is that she will also someday help someone who is in need of assistance, which she thinks as the befitting way of repaying the debt.

Wearing a faint smile that mirrors her gradual recovery, Prema's eyes reflect both gratitude for the compassionate souls who came to her aid and a haunting apprehension of the shadows looming ahead.

In her gaze, one can glimpse the weight of despair inflicted by the ongoing humanitarian crisis that has cast its darkness over the state for more than a hundred relentless days.

As her thoughts drift, they inevitably gravitate towards the impending bill, a looming burden that stands as a stark reminder of her current inability to bear its weight.

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