ANSWER’S SECRET WEAPON: The Medical Fund

One of the most wonderful things about ANSWER is its holistic approach to education.  From its inception ANSWER thought to address problems that exist outside the classroom but impact our students’ performance. When a student is not getting enough to eat at home, we will approach a donor to add a food or lunch supplement. When there is a housing or family problem, such as an alcoholic father, we will try to establish the child in the school’s hostel, etc.

These are long term family problems secondary to poverty, but sometimes the problems will be acute and devastating, such as an injury or an illness. In such cases, a quick corrective measure could immediately restore health and school attendance.  To keep our kids in school, we founded the Medical Fund.

However, when Sadie (aka Sadikshya) contracted Leukemia, some felt that cancer treatment goes beyond the limits of the Medical Fund. We all know how expensive it is to treat cancer–Tens if not Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in the USA! So, with Sadie, to preserve the Medical fund, we also established a Cancer Fund.

As it turned out, for $4,000 we saved Sadie’s life. Something that would have easily cost $100,000 in the US!  She is now three years in remission and going strong.  She is working in our office and has proven herself to be a valuable part of our administrative team. We had in place funds left over to help Teju who had a recurrence of bone cancer. Teju’s surgeries, chemo, meds and hospitalization were all covered through the Medical Fund and donations made by her sponsor.

Unfortunately, Teju had a recurrence and died a few months ago at 19 years of age. Teju was a beautiful soul, always smiling and positive. She was going to be a lab tech. She was not only the topper in her class, but the only one who consistently passed the exams with high marks. She had spoken of her disease and treatment to her peers in AAA who admired her courage. Her death was heart-breaking, but we did all we could…and so much more than her family ever could.  We still have a thousand dollars left to help a third cancer victim should the need arise.  If we need additional funds we know whom we can call. Thank you.

Out of 1200 students, Teju is the only one we have lost. However, two students lost their fathers to cirrhosis this year and we were able to help the families with the hospitalization costs. The Medical Fund has saved many others:

Rekha required open heart surgery for a congenital Atrial Septal Defect (hole between the atriums) as did Pratiksha’s mother.   Sagun, a college student, was diagnosed with a serious cardiac arrhythmia (WPW), which was successfully ablated. Ajay’s father had a heart attack requiring a stent. Simran’s mother required delicate surgery on her lower back for spinal stenosis, and Rupa’s mother a hysterectomy. All surgeries, except but Rekha’s, occurred was in the last 12 months….imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t intervene. If we look back over the years, the number of children and families we have not just helped, but saved is astounding: Ram with osteogenisis imperfecti had surgery and can now walk and go to school; an adolescent girl Shova had no periods; Neermaya would be paralyzed had we not discovered her problem and taken her in for a spinal fusion; and several students are being treated for seizure disorders. When we discovered a malnourished newborn, we took him to the ER to be rehydrated and placed him in an orphanage where he could be protected from his alcoholic parents, who were beggars exploiting their babies to win sympathy and money from tourists until died!

I will never forget our very first medical intervention: a woman who was 3 weeks postpartum, lying 3 stories up, writhing in pain above a feeding station for street children. Having delivered at home she lost a lot of blood, was severely anemic and lost her balance, which caused her to fall backwards into an open cooking fire badly burning her buttocks and thighs. Three weeks later, the neighbors were complaining of a putrid smell from her wounds. When we found her, we rushed her to the hospital in hired taxi during a transportation strike (!). There she was given antibiotics, along with skin grafts. We then helped the family by educating her son. Unquestionably, she would have turned septic and died if left unattended.

Finally, I remember we stretched the limits of credulity when we even helped a childless couple get pregnant!  How this fit into our scope of intervention is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but the effort and small expense was justified and bore great rewards. We were able to preserve the family, for the husband would have taken on a second wife. Even with a blocked tube, she was able to bear a daughter who is now in high school and doing well. The father is a leader among a clan of landless, previously unschooled migrants whose children are now all going to school because of his efforts in building a bamboo school for us a decade ago.

The power of healing extends beyond the body, beyond the family, and into the community. ANSWER’s Medical Fund extends education for the child and for society. It is ANSWER’s secret weapon to converting tragedy into blessings.

We would like to thank all of you who have given to the Medical Fund, especially Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids MI, Gay Mikelson, a retired nurse in Iowa City, sponsors Edi Shreeve, Jay & Shoba Bastani, Sandy Smith-Boyd, Evlyne Sheltrown, Karen & Richard McManus and Ellen Chamberlin.

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