Mustkeen – India

The name of the child in this story has been changed to protect confidentiality.

Mustkeen is 12 years old and lives with his parents and three younger siblings in a crowded slum of Jaipur. Even though Mustkeen’s father works as an autorickshaw driver to support his family, he earns less than US$3 a day, making it a struggle for his family to manage two meals a day. Mustkeen’s mother takes care of the children at home. She and her husband hope to give their children a bright and educated future.

In early 2012, Mustkeen developed a cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. His family took him to the local medical practitioner who prescribed some drugs, but after two months of treatment, Mustkeen’s health worsened. Realizing his own failure to take necessary action, the local doctor referred Mustkeen to a nearby TB hospital. After a positive test result, Mustkeen was put on TB treatment with first-line drugs. When his condition showed no signs of improvement, the medical officer ordered a culture for DST.

In July 2012, Mustkeen was diagnosed with MDR-TB and began treatment at the nearest center, which was not far from his home. Mustkeen dreads the daily injections and hates swallowing the pills that make him nauseous. Sometimes his thin body is doubled over and racked with retching. The worst is the ridicule he endures from neighbors; he has no friends left and was asked to leave school.

Mustkeen keeps a clean cloth on his mouth to prevent the spread of TB to others. This selfless act has made him an object of ridicule. His friends and other children in the neighborhood make fun of him, and his parents have asked his siblings to maintain a distance from him. He feels dejected and alone. The fact that he is responding to his heavy doses of medication and is on the road to recovery is his only consolation.

Story Collected by: Shelly Batra, MD, Operation ASHA, India