SUNGAI PETANI: A group of medical students training in Kedah’s government hospitals saw so much suffering among poor patients until they could no longer bear to do nothing.
Together, they formed a charity to raise money to help the patients. Today, eight years later, they have raised RM220,000 to help 310 patients.
The original group of kind-hearted students has since graduated and they are now full-fledged doctors, while the running of the charity has now been handed down to their juniors, who have made it their proud legacy.
Reach out, Embrace and Deliver Association (RED) secretary Priyya Gopi Kumar, 22, said the original students who formed the charity were Dr Yee Thean Sim, Dr Sueanne Loh and Dr Coleen Wong.
Priyya said the charity now aimed to spend about RM50,000 a year on various items including high nutrition milk, colostomy bags, intraocular lenses for cataract treatment, prosthesis for knee replacement surgeries, neck braces, wheelchairs, walking chairs and many more for poor patients in Kedah.
“We try to help at least 50 patients a year in varying degrees, ” she said.
Priyya said on reaching their third year of studying medicine in AIMST University, Bedong, it was time for the students to go out for practical training in government hospitals in Alor Setar, Kulim, Sungai Petani and Yan in Kedah and in Kepala Batas, Penang.
That is when they saw the difficulties B40 (Bottom 40% income) group go through in life.
“We see it every day. Sometimes, a patient comes in with a bone fracture that needs an implant but he cannot afford it, ” said Priyya.
Although the Health Ministry heavily subsidises public healthcare, patients must still foot the basic cost for certain equipment or treatment.
The Social Welfare Department unit at the hospitals, said Priyya, would step in if the patients just could not fork out the sum.
“They will assess the patients and sometimes, the department will refer the case to charity organisations like the Lions Club, Rotary Club or RED, ” she said.
She said RED was guided by its panel of advisers, who were also the students’ lecturer-doctors.
To raise money, the students run regular charity events – from food fairs to car washes – and make handicraft items to sell. Their biggest fundraiser event is the annual Music of Hope charity concert, which brings in about RM20,000 yearly.Besides corporate sponsors in Kedah and Penang contributing a few thousand ringgit annually, another group of donors are RED members who have graduated.
RED members also pay house calls on patients to check on their progress.
Priyya and another RED member Shasvini Kunaranjan, 21, recently dropped in at the home of retired policeman Sgt (Rtd) Mohd Borhan Ibrahim, 64, in Bandar Puteri Jaya.
His son, Amir Nazmi, 22, was riding pillion on his friend’s motorcycle on March 30 last year when a car sideswiped them.
The accident left Amir Nazmi with severe nerve and muscle damage, especially on his right side, which he has yet to recover from.
“He was unconscious for more than three months. During that time and for months after that, he couldn’t eat solid food.
“The hospital taught us how to feed him with high nutrition milk. It cost us RM69 per tin and each tin only lasts five days. We are not poor but after awhile, the cost of caring for our son became too much, ” said Mohd Borhan, who appealed to the Social Welfare Department, which then referred him to RED.
“We were running out of the milk and just could not afford it anymore. If they didn’t send it to us, we wouldn’t know what to feed my son, ” said Mohd Borhan.
Priyya said RED had since bought RM1,140 in high nutrition milk for Amir Nazmi.
To help RED raise funds, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.