Sakina Bibi, an elderly woman aged 78, lived in extreme poverty. She had no source of income and lived an impoverished life with her two disabled adult children – a son and a daughter-in-law, both deaf and dumb – and two grandchildren. She was destitute and lived off the charity of her neighbours and the wider community. Sakina lay distressed in rags on the hospital bed. She had fallen down a flight of stairs, resulting in a fractured tibia and a compression fracture of her left leg.
Sakina was left unattended at home for eight days until a neighbour came across her. It was clear that if left untreated, she would not have lasted long. Out of pity and pure compassion, he offered to take her to the hospital. Taking time off from work, he got Sakina admitted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and attended to her for eight days. Sakina said to him, “You are indeed a very kind man. I can see it in your deep, compassionate eyes.” Pakistan is considered as one of the most charitable nations in the world and the neighbor’s act of kindness reflected just that.
Despite old age, Sakina took care of her four dependents and was noticed for her efforts and devotion for and care of her family. Her son’s marriage had made her happy, she said. She felt happy over having a new member in the family. But the happiness was pointless, she said. She felt dejected and cried silently at the thought that she had nobody to care for her except her neighbour. At the time of the accident, she said, her feet had gone weak and darkness had clouded her eyes. She thought that was the end of her life. Tears rolled down her face. Sakina did not seek medical help because she could not afford to see a doctor. Her family was already heavily in debt and burdened by poverty.
“I spent my life caring for my developmentally disabled son. The accident has brought me to the point where I can no longer continue to look after him. I wanted my son to be accepted by the world, rather than having to live on the fringes of society. I got him married to an equally disabled woman so that they were compatible; I taught him sewing so he could use the skill to earn from tailoring. I raised him without any kind of support from anyone but he continues to be a person with special needs. He worked for a number of years but arthritis has severely disabled him,” she narrated.
On account of her inability to pay for the treatment, having no source of income and relying on the charity as a source of income, Sakina Bibi’s case presented strong reasons for receiving support from Heartfile for interlocking nail to treat the leg fracture with an estimated cost of Rs. 21,000. Closed interlocking nailing offers reduced risks of infection and decreases the risk of shortening or rotation.
The case is a reflection of the impact of gender roles on the cultivation of social networks , how widowhood, old age and poverty affect women and how social ties can sometimes provide basic security. In this case, Sakina’s rapport with her neighbours, and in the community in general, saved her life. Nonetheless, deteriorating health left her and her disabled dependents vulnerable. Despite spending a lifetime looking after and helping others, Sakina Bibi was deprived of even the very minimal social security.