Mithilesh Chauhan was born two months premature. He weighed just 3 pounds, 3 ounces.
Without the funds to keep him in the intensive care unit at Alliance Hospital in Mumbai, India where he was born, Chauhan’s parents said they had a choice: admit him to a government-run hospital with a long wait time or pursue a cheap alternative that doctors at Alliance suggested.
The baby’s parents, Aruna and Ramseh Chauhan, chose the latter.
"One doctor told us that if we couldn't afford to keep our baby in hospital we should try a Thermocol icebox with holes for ventilation and a 60-watt bulb to provide the right amount of warmth," Aruna Chauhan, 34, told Cover Asia Press earlier this month. "He advised it was better than nothing and might save our baby. My husband bought the box from a nearby fish market and cut holes in it.”
The decision to incubate their newborn son in an icebox came after hard sacrifices. According to the Mumbai Mirror, which broke the story, the couple had sold off their belongings, including a TV set to keep their son in treatment for 20 days. The hospital charges 8,000 rupees a day (roughly $130) – a high cost for a husband that makes 9,500 rupees ($154) a month.
"We tried everything, including approaching a few charitable trusts and politicians, but couldn't find a bed in KEM or the Nair hospital. The Bhagwati Hospital in Borivali has been shut, and no civic-run hospitals in the area have incubators," Aruna told the Mumbai Mirror.
Since October when Mithilesh was born, he has been kept inside an icebox in his home. According to doctors he has thyroid-related complications that make him frail and home life “extremely risky.”
News of the family’s plight sparked a surge of public support.
So far, Ramesh Chauhan has received Rs 15,000 in donations. Dr. Minnie Bodhanwala, chief executive officer of the Wadia Hospital for children at Parel, assured the family that the baby will have free admission to the hospital’s neonatal ICU. He will stay at the hospital until he weighs 5.5 pounds.
"Three years ago when we arrived in Mumbai from Bhavnagar in Gujarat, we were warned that this is a tough and heartless city. I want to tell those people that Mumbai has adopted my ailing son. Nowhere in the world can one find so much affection," Ramesh Chauhan said.