The cricket fan

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar meets, plays cricket and boosts the morale of an ardent little fan from Pakistan awaiting liver transplant in India

Common genes, common culture, common tastes, common diseases…the list of all that is common across the Indo-Pak border is endless. We share the same trials and tribulations, the same challenges in the fields of education, economy, health and sports. We may cheer for different teams when our cricketers sweat it out in an Indo-Pak match but the love for the game, the passion, the thrill, the euphoria is common.

Hamza Akhtar was from Pakistan and he loved cricket and Sachin Tendulkar as much, if not more, than any Indian. He wanted to live so that he could play cricket. The itch to watch and play cricket was stronger than the literal itch that his illness gave him. Hamza suffered from progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis, a liver disorder that causes jaundice with severe itching and progressive liver failure.

Hamza was 6 years of age when he came to us. He had suffered from intermittent jaundice since he was 4 months old. He had been from one alternative healer to another in his quest for cure, another commonality with India, but to no avail. By 1 year of age his illness had progressed drastically causing fluid to accumulate in his abdomen. He was hospitalized and treated at Pakistan. It was only at 16 months that he could have a liver biopsy that diagnosed his illness. He was controlled on medications but over the years he had repeated episodes of jaundice, his itching became so severe he couldn’t sleep or rest. The time for a liver transplant in India had come. Little did he know that not only was he to get a new lease of life but also the dream he dare not dream, was soon to be realized.

One day he was chatting away merrily with his doctor during his assessments when he revealed his hero worship for Sachin Tendulkar. Something in his eyes stuck a cord and his doctor, in addition to his transplant arrangements, went about making another set of arrangements for this young cricket enthusiast.

Sachin was in Delhi for a test match and his wife Anjali, a child specialist was known to our fraternity. A call went through to her with a special request- a child awaiting a liver transplant worshipped Sachin, would he agree to meet him? He agreed immediately, so off went the doctors with Hamza to Sachin’s hotel. Tears rolled down Hamza’s eyes as he hugged his icon, took his autograph, got clicked with him and played cricket with him at the hotel for half an hour. This was the golden hour of his life, one that he would cherish all his life, if at all, he lived to cherish it.

All his fears were gone. Hamza had the best wishes of his icon, he knew all would be well. And all was well indeed. Hamza had to be operated twice due to a surgical complication, he bore it bravely. He was happy when he bid adieu to India and his medical team who had given him his most treasured gifts – a new liver and memories of playing cricket with Sachin Tendulkar. He could now sleep blissfully, his itches had been taken care of.

The Clinical Perspective This disease causes severe itching that is usually refractory to medications. The impact on the child’s life and psyche is tremendous. It is very gratifying to see the relief that a liver transplant brings.