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A fight against fate

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S.S. Kavitha

Mysterious syndrome renders 4 sisters immobile

MADURAI: The story of four daughters of I. Shiek Sikkander, a retired Highways engineer here, is a tragic fight of will against fate. Though born as normal children, these girls slowly lost mobility when they were between 19 and 21 years of age, owing to a mysterious syndrome.

My daughters suffer because of their weak legs, says Mr. Sikkander. Despite discouragement from his relatives, he has spent all his earnings on their studies. Though his daughters have a strong will, they are not able to support themselves physically and economically. When Ms. Ayesha Begum (35), eldest daughter, completed her B. Sc. and B. Ed., degrees, she found herself crippled one day.

Even when the second daughter was crippled, they were unaware of the impending disability. Soon, when the fourth daughter had the same fate, the family was afraid of the misfortune in store. Ayesha, who has 78 per cent disability, is now living in a closet at BB Kulam. The same fate struck Fatima Begum (33), Umath Racie Begum (32) and Shakila Amiru Nisha Begum (23), who were crippled between 19 and 21 years of age.

After spending his earnings on her daughters' studies, their unsuccessful married life and medical treatment, Mr. Sikkander is left with pension that helps himself, his daughters and grandchildren lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

Mr. Sikkander lost his only son in an accident and he suffered a massive heart attack that forced him to spend whatever money he had on treatment.

"We have faced both the best and worst phases of life; yet, we do not lose heart. We want to earn for ourselves and for the treatment," says Ms. Fatima Begum, a degree holder, while Ms. Umath Racie Begum, an MCA graduate, lost movement of her legs to the mysterious syndrome along with her hearing ability while doing her project work. Ms. Shakila Amiru Nisha Begum has completed D. Pharm and DCA. C. Ramasubramanian, founder of the MS Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, has come to their rescue by providing them free medical assistance, including psychosocial rehabilitation. S. Ravindran, Neurophysician, diagnosed it as genetically determined `spino cerebellar ataxia.'

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