Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tying a shoelace is like Kilimanjaro, sometimes

Until a few months ago, Kilimanjaro was a personal goal. Having been out of the trekking circuit for close to 3 years, it was a challenge to get back in shape to be able to do a high-altitude trek. But once the training got underway, an opportunity was presented to do more than achieve a personal milestone. And that was to raise awareness and funding for a cause that's close to my heart - Rheumatoid Arthritis.

As some of you might know, my sister, Preeti, had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 long and painful years, until she succumbed to complications arising out of the illness almost three years ago. She was 32 years old. The last few years of her life saw her struggle to maintain her familar smiling face even as her joints got swollen and stiff, and her normal stride turned into an awkward limp. Activities that most of us do without even a second thought like jumping aboard a train or sitting cross legged or even raising an arm, fell under the list of movements deemed 'next to impossible' for her. Once, I watched with mounting dismay as it took her a full five minutes to take off a T-shirt and by then, she was panting and staggering with the effort.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is like that. It's also chronic and indiscriminate, striking without any precedent. There's 7-year-old Mazhar*, I've come to know through the Emirates Arthritis Foundation, who's had Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past 2 years. Initially, when it took him almost an hour to get out of bed in the morning, his parents attributed it to laziness. It was only when he cried incessantly and complained of pain even when his mother hugged him, did they suspect something was amiss. Now, the 7-year old, with large, curious eyes, has to sit in the sidelines and watch as his friends play football. Some days it takes him an hour just to wear his shoes. He misses school frequently, and his parents fret that he's unusually moody and silent.

Dr. Humeira Badshah, a rheumatologist with the Emirates Arthritis Foundation asserts that there are treatments that can control the disease, enabling patients like Mazhar to lead a life that's as normal as possible. Most patients respond well to the new treatments, and in time are able to return to school or to their jobs. The main deterrent however, is the cost.

My goal is to raise Dhs. 40,000 (USD 11,000 approx.) for Mazhar's treatment. It's a steep figure, but then, at 19,340 feet, so is Kilimanjaro. In aspiring to one, I'm hoping this other goal will be accomplished as well.

So here's a earnest plea to all of you reading this - if you can contribute a small amount, any amount, for Mazhar's treatment, it would be a huge help. If you can pass on this appeal to family or friends, it would help even more.

You can contribute in cash, cheque or wire transfer. The team at Emirates Arthritis Foundation is also trying to set up an online payment option. Until then, if you would like to contribute, simply write to me - absoluteleela {at} gmail {dot} com. Or to Cathy Leibman, Director-Operations, Emirates Arthritis Foundation - cathy {at} arthritis {dot} ae

I look forward to your generous support for Mazhar. Because a 7-year deserves to be in the playground, not on the sidelines.

* name changed on request


Sonia said...

hey, i tried to mail u but got an error that said your id doesn't exist.
mail me?

Leela A said...

Sonia: Have mailed you. And have checked the email i.d as well. It seems to be fine. :)