Tarun( NAME CHANGED), was 6 year old (three years ago) and one of the favourite kids (still continue to be) who come to our laboratory regularly.
Every time, he would just walk inside the lab casually and sayhi to every staff in our department and expects proper response from
everyone. No one lets him leave without cuddling (good old pre covid days!). It was one week ago when his blood smears showed
blasts (Immature cells favoring blood cancer).
When it’s just a slide it doesn’t hurt much, but if a patient is seen through the glass slides that carry a bad news for them, it hurts very
badly! (however experienced a doctor can be…..) Especially if the patient is a child, it hurts even more and gives immense pain. No
pathologist would disagree with me!!
It was relatively lighter to make his parents (thanks to our dedicated team of paediatricians) understand but I failed in convinicng
myself about the fact that such a young child has to go through all the trauma due to chemotherapy!!! But had no options, got
convinced little later and wanted to keep the child emotionally strong and happy. Suggested bone marrow studies for further
evaluation.
Bone marrow aspiration was done and we had outsourced the sample for flowcytometry. My prayers continued everyday that some
miracle should happen and the child should be diagnosed with “Leukemia that vanished spontaneously” ( though, never came across
till then). I still had a ray of hope somewhere in the corner of my mind!
The report arrived and I opened it with trembling hands. It has come out as “B cell Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia – BALL”. I was
upset, infact angry with God. Unexpectedly Tarun made his entry in to the lab that time. He saw me and expected me to cuddle him,
but I didn’t (couldn’t). He shook my hands and alerted me again that he had come (he would do like that to get something to eat).
Tarun jumped and read his name in the report and was excited (as if it was his merit certificate!). He asked me what was the
report. I gave him a blank look and struggled to tell him (though my brain was instructing to pretend to the innocent child, my heart
was crying!) what disease he has. I was recollecting what was I taught in AETCOM sessions that a patient (not a child) should be
told clearly about the nature of the disease. But finally, I told him that I didn’t know.
All my efforts failed. He was so curious to know his report and so snatched the report from my hand. Everything went out of my control
(the report, my response, Tarun). He struggled to read the words, but did read the last line (which was in bold) and shouted that its
“BALL”. I looked at him with a blank face. Having interpreted that I couldnt understand what did BALL mean, he literally shouted that
“BALL means playing ball Raji……Dont you understand that. Didnt you study first standard”?
I couldnt control my tears and the same time had to adore the innocence of the little angel. Ever since even in textbooks when I read
BALL, Tarun strikes my mind with his trademark innocent smile.
Happy ending: He completed the full course of the advised treatment and is declared free of the disease. Tarun is now 9 years old!

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