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DESTINY’S CHILD!

A well-to-do techie couple from the city of Bangalore recalls the turning point in their lives when their picture-perfect existence came to a sudden standstill with the birth of their second child – a precious little boy with serious neurological and cardiac conditions. Despite their financial stability and educational backgrounds, they were shattered by the news of their son’s illness and the formidable costs of treatment proposed by the mercenary medical professionals in the private healthcare system, which left them with more questions than answers. Destiny, finally, brought them to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bangalore. A grateful father shares with Heart2Heart, the story of the family’s tryst with the Sai Healthcare system that did way more than just restore their precious child’s health, absolutely free of cost.

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Bangalore, the software capital of India

Bangalore with the sobriquet of ‘the software capital of India’ has become the proverbial melting pot with people from various parts of the country coming over to find their destiny in the ‘binary’ world. On reflection, it is funny to see how much we have ‘coded’ our existence to the digital world. ‘Indispensable’ has taken on a new meaning with electronic gadgets taking the place of our memories and the age old pen and paper.

Zeros and ones are reflections of reality. Absolutes, black and white, in a world full of grey. We think in absolutes but act in approximations. We believe in good and bad, but are unsure of decisions, for one man’s food is another’s poison. We all look for our destinies and my wife and I found ours in Bangalore.

My name is Sanjay* and my better half is Sudha*. I personally feel she fits the bill since when food, clothing and shelter are taken care of, the mind looks for balance in different ways. Yin for Yang and such…

A High-Tech Family

We actually met at a trade fair for Information Technology Products in Bangalore. At that time we were working for competing electronic giants and our conversations were on those lines. But as time passed we resonated and so put up the matter to our parents. I had come to Bangalore on a project, and my boss was so pleased with the output that he asked me if I could shift over to Bangalore, on a higher pay scale and more responsibility. By the way, I am from Maharashtra, and Sudha is a native of Bangalore. I was and still am doing well in my position and money was never a problem. When Sudha entered the picture I made up my mind to shift over. We are both from conservative families; thrift and frugality has been drilled into our psyche. With our families’ approval, we got married and have since been living in Bangalore in our own flat.

Picture Perfect Lives Granted to None

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It is said God does not give everything to everyone…probably He wants us to think of Him more often. We had a perfect life. Great jobs, great place to live, mindful of our expenses, planning our children, saving for their education and our retirement… we did everything by the book. Our daughter Shravanthi was a perfect delivery and as advised by the doctor we got all the routine tests done and she was declared healthy. No congenital disorders of any sort, no complications…she was clean. A year passed and then another without any complications. We decided to have another child. And Gambhir joined us a year later.

Misfortune Strikes the New Born

This is when the perfect mirror of our lives shattered into a thousand fragments. Our son was diagnosed as having a rare combination of both neuro and cardiac disorders. We could not believe the news but the symptoms were staring us in the face. Somehow, in retrospect, I feel all our planning was worth it. My parents came up the hard way and imbued me with the value of every penny earned or saved. And they used to say God will never put you to a test you cannot pass. I was lucky to have Sudha who shared my belief. We put our noses to the grind and decided to take the bull by the horns.

Frantic Parents Research Illness and Cure Options

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Exorbitant medical costs difficult even for financially viable family

We went to the best of hospitals for reconfirmation of diagnosis and treatment options. Sudha did a great job of collecting information on the net; so we both were well informed of the facts. The surgery costs were phenomenal… I don’t want to go into the numbers now, they are scary (At least Rs. 3,00,000 [US $ 7500] for the neuro problems that would require multiple surgeries, and Rs. 2,00,000 [US $ 5000] for the cardiac ailment).

Though the doctors reassured us that we would have our son back, none of them were really convincing. Not that we had much choice. The institutions that were capable of doing the surgery were few and the costs were sky-high, even for us who were not hard pressed for money.

Even Financially Stable Family Daunted by Formidable Medical Costs

It was then that we got to know about the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences. Since it was relatively low profile it did not reflect in Sudha’s searches on the internet. One of the doctors referred us to the hospital…but he had his share of imaginary warnings. Now that all his fears have been proved false I see no reason to hide the information. He was apprehensive of the quality of treatment as everything was offered totally free.

Finding a Balance between Objectivity and Faith

We asked around, and to my surprise, I found that many of my friends on Facebook (social networking website) were devotees of Baba. And all of them urged me to go ahead without any fear. It was a tough call: here we were - two high tech professionals, placing the life of our child in the crucible of faith. We spoke to our parents and they advised us to approach the matter objectively. We shopped around and finally managed to get an appointment with one of the doctors at the Sai Hospital through email. We finally came to the Hospital in a private taxi, and when the driver pointed out the building to us, we could not believe him; we asked him if he had brought us to the right place...

The Hospital Evokes Amazement and Awe

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Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Bangalore

I mean…the place had the look and feel of a temple. I looked at the opposite side and saw a glass and steel high rise that said SJR Technology Park, and next to that was the Makino center. I got down from the car and at the end of the road I saw the towers of ITPL (International Technology Park Ltd.). All the landmarks that I had been given to reach the hospital were correct, but I read the etched granite repeatedly to reassure myself that it was indeed the hospital. I had seen information on the website but it was nothing compared to the real thing. I am not boasting, but my jobs have taken me out of the country and I have seen many beautiful buildings… but the feeling of awe that filled me when saw the rearing sweeping arms of the hospital…well! I don’t know what to say.

Holy Hospital Ushers Hope in Parents’ Hearts

I had seen hospitals that had great Atria but this was one of a kind… and most important… the open space… vast expanses of space. Most other hospitals we had visited earlier had crammed every inch of available space with beds and facilities. All aimed at attracting as many patients as possible. They were run as profit centers and there were billing counters right at the reception desk. You pay, only then you enter. Here it was totally different, no rush, no bustle, no cash counters… nothing… it was so… so peaceful! For the first time we felt hope!

 

My first reaction when I entered the main building was that of utter amazement. I struggled hard to focus on the issue at hand but my eyes kept returning to the Ganesha Idol on the raised altar under the dome. I had seen hospitals that had great Atria but this was one of a kind… and most important… the open space… vast expanses of space. Most other hospitals we had visited earlier had crammed every inch of available space with beds and facilities. All aimed at attracting as many patients as possible. They were run as profit centers and there were billing counters right at the reception desk. You pay, only then you enter. Here it was totally different, no rush, no bustle, no cash counters… nothing… it was so… so peaceful! For the first time we felt hope!

Impressed by the Integrity…the Tranquility

This was many months ago. We got a date for admission, we came and Gambhir was operated upon for the neuro condition – uneventfully. All the apprehensions the earlier doctors had raised were washed away. He was ready for discharge in less than three weeks. We then came back again for the cardiac problem and that too was uneventful. I don’t want to go into those details here as H2H can have them from the hospital database.

Gambir’s Grave Ailment

Gambhir had a congenital malformation of the spine called scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is defined as a curvature of the spine that is the result of malformations of the vertebral elements. The elements of the spinal column develop at the same time as several other major organ systems such as the bladder, kidneys, and heart. As a result, there is an association between congenital vertebral anomalies and other malformations.

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Gambir had congenital scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, due to a birth defect
 
He also had Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), also due to a birth defect

Gambhir, for this reason, had a very delicate spine; he could not exert any pressure on his backbone, and therefore, even though a child, unfortunately playing for him was out of question. Additionally, he had multiple VSD, Ventricular Septal Defect, where the intervening wall of the lower chambers of the heart had a hole, mixing pure and impure blood.

With the healthy lease of life for our child, what stayed with the both of us after that were our experiences at this one-of-a-kind facility and that is what I would like to dwell more upon at this point.

Ethical Professionalism, Steeped in Humane Values

What impressed me most was the transparency of the medical staff. They told us everything, but in a manner that I never heard anywhere else. The truth was not bitter here. Perhaps it is the ambiance of the place, or Baba working through the staff. This practice of humane medicine sets this hospital apart from all the rest we had considered till then.

Techie Parents Find Order and Hope

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There is a lot that one receives from society. By society, I mean my parents, teachers, friends, family, colleagues in the office, my driver, and many more. I don’t know the engine driver of the train that took me to Mumbai; neither do I know the pilot who flew me to Frankfurt. But each of them has touched my life, and now I realize that the perfect calm that we show to the world hides a million volcanoes. Each of them has their story to tell and this is mine.

As a techie, so to speak, I don’t like ambiguities. Every process must be crystal clear. That is how we work on our projects. Each step is evaluated, re-considered, probable deviations factored in, contingency plans considered in parallel… we are systematic and we find order in chaos. That’s our job. But life… is the greatest of chaos. And only the One Above is capable of bringing order into it. And He has brought not just order, but hope into mine.

There is a lot that one receives from society. By society, I mean my parents, teachers, friends, family, colleagues in the office, my driver, and many more. I don’t know the engine driver of the train that took me to Mumbai; neither do I know the pilot who flew me to Frankfurt. But each of them has touched my life, and now I realize that the perfect calm that we show to the world hides a million volcanoes. Each of them has their story to tell and this is mine.

Sai’s Magnanimity Evokes Gratitude, Sense of Social Responsibility

I want to offer back what I have received. And that is not limited to any particular means. I have started reading books on Bhagavan Baba and have begun to understand why He is who He is. We have taken up service activities in our locality and for all the things that we didn’t have time in the past. Life is too precious to be frittered away in the pursuit of money and money alone. We have, by this experience in this hospital, found a new meaning for the expression “giving with love”. It is an open secret that many of us donate money to charities to avoid paying tax.

It is of course beneficial to both parties. But then the benefit is limited to monetary terms only. When I signed the cheque in the past it was with a tinge of regret that the money is no longer mine. But now when I sign it, I will sign it with the feeling that this money is going to make a difference in someone else’s life.

To be honest, it is this good will of a thousand faceless nameless people who love Bhagavan Baba that has given my son back to me. I will come back here to this Hospital, and offer my services in whatever manner I can. The other day I was reading an email that someone forwarded to me…. It was titled:

'What Can Money Buy?'

Associates - but not Family and Friends.
A House - but not a Home.
Pleasure - but not Happiness.
Pieces of Art - but not Peace of Mind.
Medicine - but not Medicare.
Hospitals - but not Health.
Favor - but not Respect.
A Degree - but not Education.
Luxury - but not Love.
Status - but not Character.

I have not yet been to Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi. Perhaps the time is yet to come. I just wanted to share the experience of our family.

As for my son, Gambhir, he is growing stronger day by day, I can see it happening. His appetite is improving and so is his energy. Even before the operations, he was interested in sports, music and dance…and now it is hard to contain his enthusiasm. Earlier his mother Sudha, would say, don’t strain yourself…and he would look up at me with pain in his eyes, but what could I do? I had to protect him from himself. I had to be careful. Now, whenever his mother cautions him he grins back and retorts, ‘Relax mom! Now, I am normal…”. Thank you Baba!

- By Sudha* and Sanjay Ambre* as told to Mr. Y. Arvind

*Names and dates have been changed on request.

 

To access all the previous issues of Healing Touch, please click here.

Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like sharing your feelings with us? Please write to us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


 

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Vol 6 Issue 08 - AUGUST 2008
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