Shweta Wagle was my student in the ninth standard. When year after year we teach so many students, some children manage to take a special place in our hearts and Shweta was one of them. She was very tall like her other girl companions, but for her age, she appeared rather a bit too thin and frail. She was brilliant in math, and as I taught, her eyes never left my face. Generally, my maths classes used to be always in the first four periods, in most of the classes. (The principal believed that Mathematics is a tough subject and students should learn it when they are fresh in the morning!!) But only on two days in the week, I used to have Swathe’s class in the fifth period, which falls immediately after the lunch break.
To my surprise, Shwetha showed less interest in my lessons whenever it was in the 5th period, mechanically taking down the sums or sometimes just wasting her time without writing the sums. Naturally, this caught my attention, because she was a good student and it was weird to see her exhibit two opposite types of behaviour. After a month Swetha started trying to sleep in my class by putting her head down on the desk. Again, I ignored her, understanding very well the problems of these young girls, when they just enter puberty and start menstruating, all that cramps and pains they suffer. But when the situation continued for more than fifteen days I decided to look into her matter.
After the class, I called her outside the class and asked her“What is wrong with you Shweta? Why are you sleeping in my class in the fifth period? Don’t you get enough sleep in the house?” Swetha licked her lips nervously and said, “Madam I am not sleeping. I am trying to hide my painful cramps which I get every day.” I was now shocked. I asked in a worried tone, “ You get cramps every day in the fifth period? That is half an hour after you take your lunch? It happens to you, day after day, without exception?” She said, “Madam, originally the pain was not so much and bearable. But now it is increasing every day and I am not able to put up with this pain” I asked, “Do you also get the same pain after dinner when you are in the house?”She said, “Yes Madam, after dinner also I get these cramps”
I asked,”Have you told your mother that you are getting the pain in the school every day after lunch?” She said, “ Just one or two days I did tell her that I got the pain after eating. She told me that maybe, I would have tried to eat lunch very fast and that may be giving me cramps. She told me to eat slowly. “I stared at the girl unable to believe this. I told her, “ Please ask your mother to come and see come tomorrow in the school without fail” she nodded her head and went to her class.
Next day, Shweta’s mother came to see me at the school during the recess. we sat in the library and I told her about the regular cramps of Shweta and asked her whether she is aware of these episodes. To my surprise, her mother did not look much affected but looked a bit confused as if to say why was I making a big issue of this minor cramps She said , “ Yes Madam Shweta does get some cramps once in a while. This age you know all girls get pains. Plus,she got this bad habit of gulping the food very fast to finish her food. So maybe this causes some cramps for her. She is otherwise a healthy girl and has no other problems. She is doing well in her studies also , isn’t she? ” I ignored this dismissal of my concern and persisted “What about at dinner? Have you noticed if she is getting any pain after her dinner?” She looked at me blankly and said, “Immediately after dinner she rushes to her room for homework and studying . So actually I don’t know … but I don’t think she gets any pain”
I told her, “Mrs. Wagle I feel Swetha is definitely having some problems with her digestive track. Just for my sake, take her to an expert and get all the test done. If nothing is serious I would be too happy. But please do this … I don’t think it is a regular pain” She half-heartedly promised to do so and left the school still wondering why I am blowing up a small stomach pain , rather than give her advise on her academic issues..
Swetha went on leave for two days for her various tests. Then her class teacher told me that she had applied for fifteen days leave on medical grounds, as she had to undergo an abdominal surgery.
I waited for two days till the surgery was over and then visited her in the hospital. Swetha was frail and looked white as a sheet and was connected to IV. Her mother sitting near her was pleasantly surprised to see me. Shweta’s face light up on seeing me and she smiled at me faintly unable to talk. I patted her cheeks and said, “Don’t worry Shweta. You will be fine. Once you return to school I will explain to you all those lessons you missed in my class. Get well soon” I took leave and came out.
Swetha’s father ran out and caught up with me outside the room and said, “Thank you so much, Madam, for saving our daughter’s life. We did not know, that many time Swetha had starved herself keeping herself half hungry so that she could study without falling asleep. This had lead to ulcers in her stomach and they had increased day after day. We were absolutely not knowing anything about her getting cramps in school and we did not take her to any doctor. Actually, the doctor said that the ulcer’s had grown so large, that suddenly one of them could have burst at any time and she would have died immediately and…..…” His voice choked.
He folded his hand and said, “ Madam how will I ever thank you?” I myself was stunned and thanked my “gut” instinct that had kicked in at the right time. I said, “Mr. Wagle, once you send your child to us in school, we are also an equal parent to your child as much as you are. Hence it is our responsibility to take care of them, not just their education but also their well-being. ANYWAY THANK GOD THAT WE DETECTED THE PROBLEM IN TIME AND SAVED HER”. Though Shweta had to miss nearly 40 days of her school, luckily this happened in the ninth standard, and Swetha passed her tenth with flying colours with good health.
Dear parents, when children are small we take great care to feed them right. As they grow up, I am sure we still serve them good food , but the focus is mostly on the academics. You get them the all the needed books , admission at right classes or engage a good tuition etc. True puberty brings in a lot of physical changes and pains, but don’t be quick to dismiss any pains. Brilliant students like Shweta , coming to higher classes, try to cut down on food so that, they can study more time without feeling heavy. Some other girls do it to become slim and look beautiful. Eating disorders often raise their ugly heads in this age. Teens often start a new diet, exclude certain food groups, and over time it morphs into a real problem. Hence it is the parent’s duty that they give them correct, nutritious food, and a number of times , even if small quantities, so that they would never go hungry, and at the same time never feel too full or sleepy. Give them a lot of fruits and fruit juices and also monitor if they are taking it.
While gynaecological causes are common with teen stomach cramps, it is important to check for other causes of digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcer disease or other anatomical causes of abdominal pain.(Read m0re here) Your child writing their first board examination is an important academic milestone event, while you help shape their academic success, make sure you have you have paid special attention to the teen’s health and diet.
Dear teachers, on your part of as teachers, as and when you teach a class, whatever be the class size, you should have a good observation of every child. Any illness, repeatedly happening for any child, should be brought to the notice of the parents for further investigation. Children spend all their day in school with us teachers. Sometimes, they run straight to classes and go home late in the evening and the parent doesn’t have so much interaction with their children, as much as we do. Doing this duty, taking care of all round development of our children is the gift of our noble profession.