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Christian Medical College Vellore

Not to be ministered unto but to minister

Vision Statement: The Christian Medical College, Vellore, seeks to be a witness to the healing ministry of Christ, through excellence in education, service and research

Ahila’s dream: build houses for the poor

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on the 10th of September every year, around the world. This year’s theme is “Working Together To Prevent Suicide“. Together is the best way to prevent the loss of precious lives.

Here is the story of a family who now know the adverse effects of suicide.

The locked shop

Bright and determined, Ahila’s biggest concern was to pass her 10th standard exams with good marks. She was the oldest in her family with two younger sisters. Her father, Ambivalan had a petty shop. This was the sole income for the family. After the lockdown was enforced in March, his shop was forced to shut. He had a debt of 10 Lakhs with supra-normal tax, known as ‘Kandhu vatti’. Lockdown stretched on, and their debt grew. Threatened by the money lender, her father tried to work, keeping the shop open but he was arrested twice.

Hope lost

Without money, feeling completely hopeless and helpless Ambivalan announced he was going to kill himself one day. He asked his wife to go to her parents village with their daughters and make a living there. Ahila being the responsible member of the family told him that there was no way four women could live amidst threats from the money lender. She convinced her father that they should all take away their lives together. Ambivalan agreed.

So the next day, Ahila and her father brought home some termite killer poison. Ahila boiled the milk with the poison while her younger sisters were given all the sweets and ice-creams they wanted as their last wish before they died. The family drank the poison and went to bed hoping to die in their sleep. Instead they woke up four hours later, and still very much alive. A disappointed Ahila told her father, “you can’t even get a poison that can kill us!

Hope for an end?

The next day Ambi bought rat killer poison for his family. This time they were vomiting and had loose stools for two days. The parents also noticed that their second daughter’s skin was slowly becoming more yellow. She didn’t seem to be normal as she was confused most of the time. Ahila was also agitated and was not normal. Unknown to the parents, this was the side effect of the rat killer poison. It inflicted more pain than the intended relief!

With their daughters looking more and more sleepy all the time, the distraught parents rushed all three girls to the nearby hospital. They became even worse in hospital. Now the wife’s family insisted they bring the children to CMC Vellore. However, tragically, the middle daughter succumbed to the poison and died before they could move her. The youngest daughter was admitted under Child Health. Ahila had fallen into a coma and was admitted under Hepatology. She had acute liver failure.

Ahila’s mother cares for her in the hepatolgy ward

Hope for the future

CMC’s Hepatology team saved Ahila’s life with a new treatment: Plasma Exchange (PLEX)**. They gave the first cycle while Ahila was still unconscious. Slowly she began to recover. After a few days and more cycles of PLEX, one of her doctors asked the parents to talk to Ahila. They were told to be positive and not mention the death of her second sister. So Ambi and his wife talked to their daughter, still in the coma. They reassured her about their family situation, hope for future, her education, her class teachers, her sisters and friends. Ahila woke up briefly, but had a purposeless gaze. Then tears rolled down her closed eyes, the first sign that she was going to be okay. 

Rise up and build!

Soon Ahila was completely out of the coma. The Hepatology department was able to support the family and gave them links for social help. A church organisation (Sneha Bhavan Guidance Centre) has agreed to provide the family with food and essentials worth Rs. 5,000 every month until they can manage on their own. Another group offered to pay for Ahila’s tuition fees. The family was also approached by legal volunteers to relieve them of their dreadful debts. The team who looked after them also encouraged the family and Ahila that she should do well in school and not lose hope! When she was asked what she wanted to be, she said confidently,

I am going to build houses for the poor when I grow up!


Ahila has passed her tenth exams with a first class. She is on her way to live her life with hope and fulfill her dreams!

World Suicide Prevention Day

This World Suicide Prevention Day, be more aware of those around you. Take a minute and reach out to someone. You could change the course of their life.

You can google suicide helplines for your state or country. Click here for helpful ideas.

*names changed

What is PLEX

Plasma Exchange (PLEX) is not the same as plasma therapy, that you may have heard is being used to treat people with COVID-19 and other infections like Ebola.

PLEX is standard treatment for select diseases of the nervous system like Guillain Barre syndrome. Recently, PLEX is being increasingly used to treat acute liver failure. Previously the only hope would have been a liver transplant, which is beyond the means of most patients in our country. This costly and tricky surgical operation is not without significant risks to the patient. Even after a successful liver transplant, the patient will have to continue lifelong medications (to prevent their body from rejecting the transplanted liver tissue). When a whole liver transplant is needed, this must be donated after someone has died (certified brain dead). There may be a long wait for a suitable liver to come available.

PLEX is somewhat similar to kidney dialysis. The patient’s blood is diverted through a machine which “cleans” it, replacing the plasma component with healthy plasma from blood donors.

This is much cheaper, and safer, than a transplant. If successful, PLEX can permanently reverse liver failure. There is then no need for long-term medications.  

CMC Vellore has developed expertise in PLEX for liver failure over the last few years and found it to be a good alternative to a liver transplant in select cases. This is especially the case when caused by poisoning or drug toxicity (reaction to medicines).

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