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Laiba’s smile

Updated: Nov 23, 2018


By Ahmad Khan



Lamia


Laiba was like any young child. Joyful and full of life, her cheerfulness could light up anything. She was everything that we are meant to cherish and protect. She was the sum that made up meaning in this world. She was life.


Unfortunately, at the young age of just 6 months, Laiba was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease. All her potential and life were suddenly hanging by a thread—a thread, the size of the thin fabric of intertwined tissue that never formed in her heart resulting in the mixing of the oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood. Despite her illness, she smiled through everything, through poverty, misfortune, illness and helplessness.


Her father was an electrician who only got paid around PKR 600 on days that he could find work. He lived in a two-room house with his family and could barely meet his needs. Laiba and her siblings’ school fees had to be paid by a maternal uncle.


Children start to play as soon as they can walk, but Laiba’s heart was too weak, so she sat and watched other kids play. She could not make friends as she was unable to leave the house.


She could not even help her mother in house chores and was forced to sit idly and watch the world that she was not a part of. She could not even bathe or dress herself properly and needed help from others in every task. She felt helpless and insignificant. When all her friends were graduating from 6th grade she was still in 3rd, pulled down at every step of her life by her condition. All that was left for this 11-year-old girl was to watch the seasons change and cry at her own pain, and yet she could not even cry, for she was too weak for that. So, she continued to smile, instead.


Her suffering was worsened by her father leaving for Karachi to receive treatment, after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. She was now alone with her mother and three siblings, depending completely on the maternal uncles. She was left in pain with the knowledge that her family was already in a debt of PKR 50,000 due to previous treatments and needed another gigantic sum of PKR 500,000 (around US $ 5,000) if she was ever to be treated—a sum she knew her family could never provide. And so, she lost her light. That is when she lost her smile.


Laiba was referred to Heartfile Health Financing through a district community referral channel, and was swiftly helped. She was operated on August 7, 2018 in Rawalpindi and is now well.


I feel enormously privileged to be interning at an organization that has developed a seamless and transparent health financing system that can assist individuals in such dire need. Through cases like Laiba the world is shown how important it is, for those who are more well off, to commit to helping other humans. Since without their contributions the small flames of light, like Laiba, would never shine bright.


Ahmad Khan is an A-level student who secured 10 A’s in O Level exams. He is presently a summer intern at Heartfile

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Heartfile Health Financing (HHF) is an access to treatment program for non-communicable diseases. It provides financial access for high-cost treatment for those who are unable to pay, are likely to spend catastrophically or forgo treatment. HHF's mobile phone-driven process is fully transparent and offers help to patients with dignity. HHF currently operates in selected hospitals in Pakistan and is being prepared for scale-up.  

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