Volume 6 - Issue 10
OCTOBER - 2008
WHERE LOVE GREETS YOU AND GRACE CURES…
It is our second day in this Sai-suffused abode of healing, the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam. Touching moments from the previous day are still playing, again and again, in our minds as we are about to step into this sacred premises. The sevadal volunteer at the gate, with the distinctive blue scarf on his shoulder, just like yesterday, greets us with a big smile, and his palms-together. The ‘Sairam’ today is even more enthusiastic, now that we are no more newcomers. We bend our heads gently and reciprocate his greeting gracefully.
As we go in, our eyes meet another sevadal, the one we interviewed yesterday, and he again flashes his now-familiar broad smile and eagerly moves towards us. “Is all this going to come on Radio Sai?” he asks, pointing to the digital still and video cameras in our hands.
“Yes, surely… that is our aim. We want to share with everyone the stirring story of Swami’s Hospital. We will first do a story in “Heart2Heart”, Radio Sai’s e-journal, and then an audio documentary for Radio Sai, and later probably a video documentary.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. Yes, we must tell everybody about this beautiful Hospital. I just love being here…When I am here, I am the happiest.”
“It is obvious; he does not have to say it…” we think as we look at each other. Whenever we saw him yesterday – in the morning, afternoon or in the evening the smile was ever intact on his face.
The Little Ones Capture Hearts
“Ok…Do you know where the pediatric department is?” we ask him, not to lose more time. The children’s section is first on our agenda for the day. We have not forgotten the last words of the Medical Superintendent before we left the Hospital yesterday – ‘Start your day tomorrow with the smiles of the sweet and innocent kids… it will make your day bright’.
“O yes, just go on the right. Walk a few steps and then look in the left, you can not miss it!” The sevadal now rushes off to attend to his many duties.
We follow his instructions, and yes, what a lovely sight we see! It is like a lively and colorful little garden inside the Hospital itself. We see a toddler galloping on his stationary horse; another one in a red t-shirt is sliding down a tiny climbing frame with big smiles across his chubby face; a third, maybe a year or two old, is swinging merrily on a rocking chair while her burkha-clad mother gently holds her arm; a fourth, with a brown shirt on, is holding onto the huge ears of his red and yellow tiny elephant and riding on it joyfully, his eyes wide-open with excitement; and there is a fifth, who, looking at our cameras, flashes an impish smile… his mother laughs heartily at her boy’s prank; and the sixth is….well, each kid is so sweet…we stand here for a while enjoying this beautiful scene and taking as many snaps as we can. Whenever a tiny one reciprocates our smile, we are thrilled too.
‘The only prominent feeling prevalent here is service’ - Dr. Mohanta
“Sairam…next patient.” we hear a voice from inside. There are three cubicles attached to this playpen. ‘At least, if we can speak to one doctor, it will be great,’ we say to ourselves. We decide to go in and try our luck.
“Sairam, Sir?…” We part the curtain a little and ask. “We are from Radio Sai… can you spare five minutes for us?”
“Oh ok…” says the elderly bespectacled and busy gentleman. “Let me finish seeing this patient.”
After a few minutes, we are in the tiny chamber of this pediatrician.
“We are working on a story on this Hospital… can you please tell us about your experience working here?... When did you join here?”
“I am Dr. Mohanta. I joined here in 1996. Earlier, I was a professor in Cuttack Medical College, in the state of Orissa… I have known Swami since the early eighties and I used to come to Puttaparthi regularly on festival occasions to serve in medical camps. But after my retirement, I did not want to go anywhere else for I derive so much joy working here!”
“What do you feel is so special about this Hospital?”
“Everything is different! To me, actually, this feels like a home; it is a big sweet home because here we have no distinctions whatsoever – there is nobody senior or junior; no one is worried about position, power, money, etc. The only prominent feeling prevalent here is service; each one of us here is focused only on moving closer to God through loving service and we are all aware that we are just instruments in His hand, therefore, everyone is at the same level…we only want to serve.”
‘Seeing patients is Darshan for me’ - Dr. Jorge Luis Berra
At this point, another doctor, a Caucasian gentleman looks in. He sits opposite Dr. Mohanta and chips in with “Here, patient is at the top!…the rest are all at the bottom.”
We find his remark interesting and want to learn more about him.
“Doctor, from which country do you come from?”
“I come from Argentina. I have been working as a visiting doctor in this Hospital since 2005. Since then, I have been coming here twice a year for two weeks each. What I love the most here is the atmosphere, it is so full of love and every treatment is offered completely free.
"Many parents come with their malnourished children to this Hospital, and we are able to give them proper advice with minimal investigations - unlike in western countries where everyone goes through a battery of tests which may not always be necessary.”
We want to know more about him. So, we ask again, “What motivates you to come here, every year?”
“Ah, my heart is surrendered to Swami. I want to be a little drop in His vast ocean of selfless service. It does not matter if I miss darshan working here - seeing patients is darshan for me. I hope and pray I can come here every year because this is the most important part of my life.”
We are amazed at the level of commitment and sense of devotion of this visiting doctor from across the world. We later learn that he is Dr. Jorge Luis Berra and he is a member of the International Medical committee of the Sai Organisation. We look at a photo of Swami on the doctors’ table and wonder at His mysterious designs.
Now, we want to know more about the maladies and the treatment offered in this vibrant department. “What are conditions that you often see among these rural children?” We ask Dr. Mohanta.
“Diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory infections, anemia, worm infections… most of these diseases have poverty and malnutrition as their basic cause. We have patients coming even from Bangladesh, a neighbouring country, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh (far off states in India). We see an average of 200 children a day, 95% of them are from poor families. By Swami’s grace, we have all the facilities and equipment needed like X-ray, ultrasound, comprehensive blood investigations, all available drugs to manage a wide spectrum of diseases, photo therapy, new-born resuscitation facilities for infants, etc.”
At this instant, a young lady doctor comes in to discuss about a patient with Dr. Mohanta. “She is Dr. Saritha. You must speak to her…” Dr. Mohanta alerts us. “She has left her job in the UK to join us here. She manages the newly opened neo-natal ICU.”
The Intensive SAI Care Unit
We greet Dr. Saritha with a hearty ‘Sairam’ and request her to give us a few minutes. She readily agrees.
We move over to the next room and ask her to share her story.
“I hail from Kerala, a southern state of India,” Dr. Saritha starts. “After my MBBS, MD and Diploma in Child Health in India, on the advice of my professor, I went to the UK. I worked there for three years, and then, one day, I read the advertisement for the post of a pediatrician in ‘Sanathana Sarathi’, the ashram’s monthly magazine. I applied and got the job! I immediately resigned and came here.”
“You had no second thoughts? You were getting set for a good career in the UK, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I worked in a reputed hospital there and if I would have continued, maybe in 3-4 years I would have become a consultant and brought home a big salary. But I came here only for Swami and my spiritual development. For me, to be chosen by Bhagavan to work as a pediatrician in His Hospital is a big honour, nothing else compares to this!”
Again and again, we are humbled by the dedication of these doctors. We ask her again, “How does it feel working here, professionally?”
“The pediatric department in this Hospital is still growing. A few months ago, Swami gifted us with a neo-natal ICU. Now, we can attend to any complication of a new born baby. Do you want to see this facility?”
“Sure…if that is possible.”
“Yes, let’s go.”
We walk upstairs along with Dr. Saritha and first enter a ward.
‘This is our Swami’s Hospital’ - Mrs. Bhagyamma, a patient
On the second bed, as we enter, is a lady with a precious new-born on her lap. “You can speak to her, she is Bhagyamma,” Dr. Saritha guides us and adds, “Her baby came out of the ICU a few days ago.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?” we ask Bhagyamma, smiling.
“A girl…she is my second daughter. The first one, Vennela, too was born in this Hospital.”
“What was the problem with this child?”
“My baby was born 13 days ago, but she was underweight. She weighed only 1.75 kilograms (normal is 3 kilograms) and developed serious complications. The doctors, therefore, put her in the ICU. In no time, she put on weight and is now pink and healthy.” Bhagyamma tells us smiling.
“Her baby was not only underweight, but also had low blood pressure on the second day. So we gave her glucose and other fluids with the help of the modern equipment here. That is how she recovered,” Dr. Saritha explains.
“What do you do for a living?” We are keen to know more about Bhagyamma’s background.
“My husband runs a hair saloon in our village which is 10 kilometres from Puttaparthi. He earns Rs. 100 (about US $ 2) a day and we are unable to meet our daily expenses. We cannot afford treatment anywhere else so for the last 23 years, we have not gone to any other Hospital. It is not just the free treatment, the doctors and sisters here take care of us so well - it is our Swami’s Hospital. We are alive and still living because of this Hospital.”
Bhagyamma now puts her head down and fixes her eyes on her baby to hide her emotions. Looking at this moving scene of mother and child, we ponder how like a mother, Bhagavan has taken care of so many poor and deprived ones.
“Inside is the ICU,” Dr. Saritha now turns our attention to her right. “Now, we have four beds, which are sufficient for the present, as out of more than 2,500 deliveries that happen every year in this Hospital, only 5% of the babies may develop extra compilations at birth. Do you want to film the inside of the ICU?”
“Yes, if that is possible.”
“One of you can put on a gown and come inside.”
We take a poignant picture of a baby hooked onto a respiratory support system inside the ICU…our heart goes out to him. We move around and take a few other general shots. “We have facilities to monitor the functions of all the vital organs of the body as prematurely born babies need a lot of care. By Swami’s grace, we are doing very well in this department.” Dr. Saritha smiles, and then says, “Ok…now, I need to go, there must be many children waiting downstairs.”
“Sure, madam. Thank you very much for your time.”
We too walk down the stairs, but rather slowly, ruminating on all events since we stepped into the Hospital this morning… the doctors’ dedication, and the love and gratitude of the patients for this Hospital and Swami, fill our minds. As we reach the bottom of the staircase, the tall figure of Dr. Kamala greets us warmly. Yesterday she had spent quite a few minutes with us narrating the story of her life. Now, smilingly, she asks, “How is it going?”
“Very fine, madam…we just now saw the neo-natal ICU and spoke to Dr. Saritha, it was very inspiring… we would like to know more about the maternity section now.”
“In that case, you should speak to Dr. Chaya and Dr. Prabha; the latter has been here since 1979. They have contributed immensely to the Gynecology and Obstetrics department. Besides, their own stories of how they came to Swami are wonderful too. But it is only 10 a.m. now and they will be very busy in the outpatient department. You should go to them after 11 a.m. After that, maybe you can speak to Dr. Ghooi. She is the one who helps childless couples become parents and she will have many interesting stories to share. Her room is just a few steps ahead, next to Pharmacy.”
“Sure, we will do that, thank you very much.”
We walk as per Dr. Kamala’s directions and soon pass by the Pharmacy. The next room has curtains on and we ask a sevadal standing outside, “Is it Dr. Ghooi’s room?”
‘I have never experienced such love before’ – Dr. Ghooi
“Yes,” she says. We begin to explain “We need to speak to her, we are from…” Just then a patient comes out and we spot Dr. Ghooi. We grab the opportunity, “Sairam madam, we are from Radio Sai, we would like to talk to you…”
“Oh, sure…come in.”
We enter inside with our camera bags and occupy the empty chairs beside her. Then, we ask, “Madam, can you share your experience in this Hospital? Where were you working before? Is working here in anyway different from your work experience elsewhere?”
“You see, I am a gynecologist and I had set up my own Hospital in Bhopal. But I locked it up and came here in 1999 on His instructions. Though I am an allopathic doctor, I treat patients with many alternative therapies too. Before starting to work here, I asked Swami, ‘Can I start integrated medicine?’ He said, ‘Yes’. So, I treat infertility with ayurveda, homoepathy, yoga, etc. besides allopathy. And by Swami’s grace, so many have been blessed with babies. Just now, I was seeing a couple who originally hail from Rajasthan, but the husband has now opened a shop in Puttaparthi. Maybe they are still here…let me see.”
Dr. Ghooi now rises from her chair and as she walks out, she says, “It will be nice if you can get their story directly from them.”
“Certainly, we would love that,” we respond. And in a few seconds she returns with the couple. “You can speak to them…” she directs us.
“Is it ok if we have your experience in this Hospital on the camera? We are doing a story…” we explain our objective in detail.
“Sure…we have no problem. This Hospital has benefited us immensely,” says the husband sincerely.
“When and why did you come here?” We ask our first question.
“Well, we had no children for two years after our marriage. Later, she conceived, but it was a miscarriage in the third month. Then, we approached Dr. Ghooi and her treatment worked so well. We had a son who is three years old now! We came to her again, a few months ago, for our second child, and now, my wife is pregnant. In fact, my aunt too was blessed with a daughter with the help of Dr. Ghooi’s treatment.”
Now, the wife joins in spontaneously. “For any ailment, we come only to this Hospital; there are two important attractions here. First is the love of the doctors - they talk to us so nicely and always give the right advice. Doctors in other Hospitals, many a times, mislead patients… I have seen that in our family. A few years ago, when my father had a urinary problem, the doctors in a hospital in Bangalore suggested an operation.
"But the doctors in Swami’s Hospital here, prescribed medicines for one year and he is fine now. I have seen many cases like this. The second most unique thing about this Hospital is Swami’s Grace. No doubt, the entire treatment is free, but it is His healing grace that pervades here which draws us to this Hospital.”
Dr. Ghooi now adds, “Truly, there is something about this Hospital which is beyond comprehension. The success rate I gave to an international conference about my treatment to infertile couples from my practice in the other hospital was 22%. But here, it is amazingly high – it is 50-60%! So I know it is Baba who is giving them babies.
“A few years ago, the children of a doctor working here came from America seeking treatment. So I took down their complete problem, wrote my treatment and asked the doctor to give this letter to Swami. That day, in the evening, when he gave the letter, Swami asked in Hindi, “Baccha kaun dhetha (Who gives babies)?” The doctor, for a moment, was taken aback, and then he replied, “You Swami!” Bhagavan then said, “Haan! Mein dhetaa (Yes, I give).” After that He took his letter. They were blessed with a baby girl in the US…”
“There are so many stories like this. I am very happy here, because my patients are happy. They love me and I love them. I never experienced such love in my private practice; love here is a truly spiritual experience. There is so much energy in this love and that is how miracles happen!”
Just then, another doctor comes in. “She is Dr. Leela, a gynecologist. She too can share with you plenty of such stories…” Dr. Ghooi suggests to us.
‘It is God alone who is doing everything’ – Dr. Leela
“Every doctor here is a goldmine,” we say to ourselves and shifting the angle of our camera, ask Dr. Leela, “Madam, would you like to share with us one or two of your incredible experiences in this Hospital?”
Dr. Leela obliges, and says, “There are many…ok… I will narrate one for you now. This incident happened three years ago. There was a lady admitted for her first childbirth, and she had high blood pressure.
"In fact, she was on two drugs and we were monitoring her closely for 15-20 days, but her blood pressure would not come down! We were really worried about her impending delivery. And then, suddenly, much before the due date, she went into labour! We were giving medicines to reduce her blood pressure even at this hour!
"That whole day I was in the Hospital...I had gone briefly to have my dinner and then I get a phone call from a sister, ‘She is in labour! Suddenly her blood pressure has dropped! It is too low; it is below what our instrument can record! The pulse is feeble...please come immediately!’ I rushed there, terribly tensed.
"There could be serious complications if delivery happens during low blood pressure; some patients don’t survive elsewhere. I asked the sister to call the anesthesiologist, because they can be of great help in such situations too. He came and we gave drugs to raise the blood pressure, and the situation did improve. The baby was delivered within an hour… But after that problems multiplied!”
“She started bleeding…she bled like a tap! We did everything that could be done, but nothing worked! We thought she was going into DIC, a condition where blood stops coagulating in the body. Three years ago, we did not have some of the modern facilities that we have now. We had to get blood from the Super Specialty Hospital, and the only option we had now to save her life was hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). But even that was a risk because of her low blood pressure; she could die on the operation table. Now, we called another senior doctor, and then started praying to Swami fervently – ‘Swami! We have done everything we can, please come and save this patient! We cannot see this patient die in front of us…please...’ And then, you won’t believe, after 10-15 minutes, she stopped bleeding and the blood pressure too came up!”
Dr. Leela’s eyes are now suddenly overflowing... “Can you put off the camera please?” We immediately hit the ‘pause’ button. The memories of the trauma and the final deliverance on that fateful day is too overwhelming for her. After a while, she continues, “You see…I have come to the conclusion that what we do is nothing; we think we are doing everything, but actually, through us, it is God alone who is doing everything.
"In any case, that night we transfused 3 to 4 bottles of blood into her. Usually, after such an amount of blood loss, the kidneys shut down. But quite miraculously, she was hale and hearty, and her baby was healthy too. Therefore, God works in wondrous ways. Swami need not physically come and administer vibhuti; a sincere prayer reaches Him… and we have seen so many cases like this.”
Dr. Ghooi now takes over. “I can tell you many such stories and some of the patients are our own staff working inside the ashram and in the Hospitals. But I think you should also speak to Dr. Chaya. Everyday she attends to many patients in the Out Patient Department and also performs operations.”
“Oh yes, she is next on our list, and the time is just perfect. It is past 11 a.m. now; hopefully she will be able to spare some time for us…Thank you so much, madam, it was absolutely enlightening talking to you both.” We fold our palms to convey our gratitude.
“It is all His doing…you are always welcome.” Both of them echo the same feeling.
We pack our cameras and move out. We stop a sister passing by and ask, “Where can we find Dr. Chaya?”
“Just go straight. Her room is beside the big altar.”
We take a few steps walking along the sparkling corridor, responding to the ‘Sairams’ of sevadals serving in front of every room. And soon, we come to a large area, a portion of which is occupied with rows of black chairs. We turn right and yes, there is the altar – in fact, a very beautiful altar.
There is a huge picture of Swami at the centre, smiling beatifically and blessing; it is so inviting; to the left of this is a bewitching statue of Lord Krishna… our hands automatically go to the cameras. We adjust the lens and take a steady snap… just then an elderly lady comes from behind and says, “Do you know whose Krishna is this?”
“No madam, please tell us.”
Krishna – Not Just a Statue
“This is the statue that Mother Eswaramma (Baba’s mother) used to worship! After she passed away, it used to be in the Mandir many years. Later, Dr. Jayalakshmi, one of the earliest doctors of this Hospital, requested Swami for this idol and He kindly agreed. This has been here for decades now and there are amazing miracles related to this statue too.”
“Oh, can you narrate just one?”
She continues, “One night when I was on duty, it was raining heavily and the weather was chilly. Somehow, I felt very sorry for this Krishna. So, I went to Him and said, ‘Poor Krishna! You must be feeling very cold!’ and covered the idol with a shawl. The next morning, during darshan, Swami came near me and said, ‘Oh…it is so cold!’ At that instant, I did not understand what Swami was referring to. Only later, when realization dawned, I was just stupefied.”
We listen to this soft spoken senior lady, dressed completely in white, with awe. “Every object in this Hospital too seems to be so special…so alive!” we think to ourselves. Meanwhile, that kind lady is walking away…and we find another lady with a white apron on her saree and stethoscope on her shoulder coming our way. We smile, and quickly ask her, “Doctor, can you please identify that elder lady for us?”
“Oh, she is Dr. Wamsa, an ophthalmologist; she has been serving here for nearly three decades now.”
“Ok… that’s interesting, thank you. We are from Radio Sai. We would love to speak to her sometime; but now, we want to talk to Dr. Chaya. Her room is supposed to around here.”
The Mothers are All Safely Guarded in His Hands – The Doctors from the Gyne Unit Speak of Bhagavan’s Care
She smiles and says, “Yes, I am Dr. Chaya. Dr. Kamala told me about you all, and that is the reason why I came towards you when I saw you here. I have quickly written a note on the Gynecology and Obstetrics Department here… see if it helps you.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! So thoughtful of you, but we would love to speak to you too. Do you have a few minutes? Also, Dr. Kamala mentioned to us about Dr. Prabha. Can she also join us? It would be great.”
“Ok, sure. Let me see if I can locate Dr. Prabha quickly.” And then, pointing to a room, she says, “Meanwhile, make yourselves comfortable there.”
We move into that room, and in less than a minute, not two, but three doctors come in. “This is Dr. Prabha, and she is Dr. Kameshwari,” Dr. Chaya introduces them, and adds, “Both are veterans.”
We fold our hands respectfully and say ‘Sairam’ to both of them as they occupy seats in front of us.
“Ok… so, what do you want from us?” Dr. Chaya asks.
“Please tell us when did you join here? And how was this Hospital then, especially your department?”
“I joined here eight years ago,” Dr. Chaya begins. “Earlier, I had worked in a couple of government and other Hospitals in India, and also nine years in the UK. I always longed to come here, and now I feel so blessed.
"The situation then and now is vastly different. In those days, the patients were so innocent, illiterate and reserved that they wouldn’t know their age; they won’t say their name, and often they wouldn’t disclose if that was their first, or second or third pregnancy… many times we would discover this information much later.
"And the number of emergency cases was numerous because they would come here only if the mid-wife or the grandmother was unsuccessful in performing the delivery. So, it would be cases of obstructed labour, impending rupture of the uterus, severe infections, and so on… It was really challenging with limited facilities available at that time.”
“So, how did you manage?” we ask inquisitively.
“Well, to tell you the truth, it is Swami’s Grace which helped us to treat those unfortunate ones. They were all very poor and illiterate villagers; where could they go? For them, a bus fare of Rs. 50 to come to the Hospital was itself a difficult proposition. So, we used to take His name and do our best, and the patients used to recover.”
Dr. Prabha now chips in. “You know, many years ago, a lady came in during labour, with many complications. Our Hospital was not equipped enough to treat her case. We thought it would be best for her to go to Anantapur or Bangalore.
"So, we went to the Bus stand hunting for a suitable conveyance for her. But nothing was available, not even a taxi. Crestfallen, we returned to the Hospital. The patient was also unwilling to go; she said she would die here than go elsewhere. We were helpless. We prayed to Swami and then took her in.
"To our amazement, her conditions changed! She delivered normally. The next day, in an interview, Swami told us, ‘Why did you get upset and go roaming to the bus stand? Just do what you can and I will look after the rest.’ So, that is our Swami, and that is how this Hospital functions. He runs it and we are only His instruments. In fact, He drew all of us here.”
Brought by a Miracle in Nigeria, Dr. Prabha
“Madam, please let us your story? How did you happen to come here?”
“Oh, that is a fascinating tale… I came to Him actually through a patient. More than 32 years ago, I was working in Nigeria as a consultant. There were a group of people there who would gather every Thursday and do bhajans. My mother would go to these meetings; I was least interested; still at times I used to accompany my mother. For me, the main attraction was not the bhajans, but what happened at the end of it. Generally it would be a crowd of about 15 families, and each family would bring one dish to be served to all after the bhajans. So, that way, I had the opportunity to taste 15 dishes! That was enough motivation for me.” Dr. Prabha smiles childishly, and continues,
“One particular Thursday, they said, ‘One of our brothers has just returned from Swami and he has brought Vibhuti packets, each of us can take one.’ So I picked up one, and while driving back home I thought, ‘Maybe this Vibhuti might help my emergency patient?’ and forgot about it. I had a really critical case in the Hospital.
"There was a lady who had come with a completely ruptured uterus, and her blood pressure was very low. The baby, unable to come out, had died in the womb. It was a very sad condition and I had immediately operated on her at 11 a.m. that morning; still, her blood pressure never rose beyond 90/60 (the normal reading is 120/80).”
“I had tried everything…and the worst part was that she had not come out of anesthesia even at 12 in the night. I was absolutely clueless and petrified. If a patient does not reverse 4 hours after anesthesia, it is a major danger sign, and in her case, 13 hours had gone by! So, you can imagine my plight…all her vital parameters were falling…I was unable to sleep that night. At mid-night, suddenly I got this thought: ‘People say this Baba is God…why not try this Vibhuti?’
"So, I jumped out of my bed and drove immediately to the Hospital. I went straight to the patient, sent the nurse away on some errand, and then, opened the Vibhuti packet and put it in her mouth. I applied a little on her forehead and hair too, and then returned quite relaxed to my car. While driving back, I kept saying to Baba, ‘This patient could have died before she came to the Hospital, but it didn’t happen…why should she die after I have operated on her? You better save this patient!’ I kept saying this to Him again and again, and after I had poured my heart out to Him completely, I slept peacefully.
The first thing I did the next morning was to call the hospital. And the nurse said, ‘The patient is alright.’ I was vexed. ‘Say she is still alive; what do you mean by alright?’ I kept the receiver down. And the next moment, I was rushing to the hospital. And when I entered her ward, I saw her sitting up and smiling broadly! I was dumbstruck…her blood pressure was perfect at 120/80! This blew me over… I had not done anything special last night except give her Vibhuti! I immediately booked my tickets to Bangalore via Beirut and Bombay; I wanted to find out what this ‘Baba’ is all about and ….here I am.”
“She smiles and then continues, “I joined this Hospital in 1979; initially I worked for three years in His General Hospital in Whitefield, Bangalore. But as Dr. Chaya was telling you, the situation now has changed drastically since those days.”
“Exactly,” says Dr. Kameshwari, and goes on to explain. “Thanks to the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital, the Eswaramma Mother and Child Welfare programme, and also a few initiatives taken by the government, there is more health awareness among the rural folk these days. Now, they come to us with fewer complications and well before time. Slowly, they are coming out of years of superstitious and harmful health practices.”
“At the same time, by His grace, the Hospital is much better equipped now. We now have a comprehensive laboratory where some of the tests that we do routinely, may not even be done in teaching Hospitals.”
“Besides, one other great comfort factor here is the availability of blood,” Dr. Chaya comments, and she amplifies this saying, “Apart from stored bottles, fresh blood is just a phone call away; the students, staff and hundreds of devotees are always ready. And this has saved many lives. For instance, a few years ago, one morning, a Muslim mother walked in desperately seeking help; in her arms was her young girl, lying almost lifeless. We checked her daughter immediately – she had no blood pressure or pulse!
"When we examined her we discovered that hers was a case of ruptured ectopic pregnancy, a condition where the foetus is fertilized in the tube and not in the main uterus. As a result of which the tube bursts and the patient collapses. This was her sorry state. We instantly arranged for blood, opened up her abdomen and did the necessary surgery. She made very good recovery. The mother was very grateful to all of us, and especially, Swami. Five times a day she would spread her mat in the ward and say her namaz facing Swami’s picture. It was a touching sight!”
The Mobile Hospital and Eswaramma Mother and Child Welfare Programmes Do a World of Good
Dr. Prabha now chips in again to elaborate further. “At the root of all their problems is poverty and ignorance. Their daily meal is just rice and a pickle; they have no intake of iron, calcium or other essential vitamins. But the good side of this story is that over the years they have developed a lot of faith in this Hospital. Now, expectant mothers from local areas come here periodically for ante-natal checkups and take proper health supplements. And this effort is supplemented by the Mobile Hospital and the Eswaramma Mother and Child Care Programme where volunteers go from door to door and supply the essential iron, calcium, folic acid and multi-vitamin tablets.”
“The Mobile Hospital programme has not only significantly improved the health of expectant mothers in the rural areas, it has also unearthed many chronic gynecological cases,” Dr. Chaya adds, and elaborating further she says, “Presently, every week we have at least 2 operations of tumours or fibroids in the uterus. And most of these patients, until our doctors diagnosed them, were unaware that they were suffering actually from a serious ailment!
"And it is not just their ‘bad blood’ leaving the body as some local grandmothers put it to them... often we have to keep these patients in the Hospital for a week or more before the operation date to improve their vital parameters. In fact, I cannot forget this lady from Kadiri (100 kilometres from Puttaparthi) who walked into the Hospital looking absolutely weak, completely pale and anemic. When we checked her condition, she had a tumour in the uterus, but the most shocking fact was that she had only 1 gram of hemoglobin in her blood! The normal count is 12 grams.
"That she was still alive and walking was itself a miracle! We immediately admitted her, infused blood, pumped in other essential vitamins and minerals, and after 8-10 days operated on her. She left the Hospital virtually with a new lease of life. It was His Grace that everything we did was successful without any complications.”
We listen to all these stories and facts with wide eyes… Now, we want to ask them something more personal.
‘It is not me anymore, it is Swami’ – Dr. Chaya
“Madam, the number of surgeries, in both obstetrics and gynecology, has increased over the years, and you attend to the Out Patient Department too which averages 150 patients every day. But, you are now in the evening of your life…How are you able to handle this load? Does it not tire you? Do you really get frustrated at times?” We ask Dr. Chaya.
“You see, it is very different working here and elsewhere... Frankly, here my energy levels are far superior than what it was when I was working in government hospitals. Here I do not have any tension; I am calm and composed…the moment I go into the theatre, it is as if I am taken over by another force. It is not me anymore, it is Swami…I know it, it is my experience. And this is precisely why even the difficult operations that we encounter here pass as smoothly as peeling an orange.
"Even in cases where the baby is stuck and the mother has severe infections, there is no stormy post-operative recovery. The mother recuperates quickly and impressively. What truly keeps me going is the happiness of these poor patients; once they get well, the smile on their faces is enough inspiration and the biggest energy-booster. And some of them visit the Hospital frequently only to see us…they are like our family. Actually, even now there might be a few sitting outside; I can look there if you are interested.”
“Sure…we would love to talk to them… there is nothing like listening to the patients directly!”
‘Everyone speaks to you with so much love’ – Mrs. Lakshmi Narasimha, a patient
Dr. Chaya now walks out of the room, and in a few seconds, she is back with two middle-aged ladies. Introducing one, she says, “She is Lakshmi Narasimha, and comes from Yenumunapalli, about 3 Kilometres from our Hospital. You can speak to her.”
“Sairam… can you please tell us what brought you to the Hospital and what did the doctors do for you here?”
“I was suffering with severe bleeding for more than a year. When I came in this condition last year, the doctors examined me and suggested that I undergo an operation. Because it was this Hospital, I immediately agreed.”
“She had a mass in her uterus, which we call, a fibroid; she is past 45 years now and was suffering very much. We, therefore, performed a hysterectomy (removal of uterus),” Dr. Chaya explains. Now, the lady wants to say more; we see her eager eyes, so, we ask her to go on.
“These doctors looked after me so well. I have full faith in what these doctors do here, as this is Swami’s Hospital; everyone speaks to you with so much love. I will never go to any other Hospital. We work in the fields and have a few cows; we make our living selling milk to the local population. We have no savings, but even if I had money, I would not go anywhere else. I have full faith in Swami and I love this Hospital; I love everything here…” She goes on enthusiastically...
We thank her and now turn our attention to the other lady. “Please tell us, what has been your experience in this Hospital?”
‘I was very sad when they discharged me’ – Mrs. Narayanamma, a patient
“My name is Narayanamma. What can I say? I do not know how to express my joy…the way the doctors here have taken care of me is more than what even my parents would do… Really, nobody outside will take care of us like this…” She is almost crying now.
We pause, and then to divert her mind, ask, “Ok…where are your children?”
“My children are not with me now; they have all gone to the cities. They offered to take me to Bangalore when my bleeding became severe, but I never agreed; why should I? Who will see you with so much care and concern? You will have to spend money elsewhere. Here, there is no money charged and they serve you with so much love.
"Frankly, to tell you, I was very sad when they discharged me; it felt as if I was going from my mother’s home to my in-laws house… these doctors are like mothers to me… this Hospital feels like a home…I will never go anywhere else…”
‘What motivates me is the dedication of the senior doctors’ - Dr. Chandrika
It is another emotional outpour… our hearts are full. “How ignorant we are about this magnificent house of healing” we think to ourselves. We decide to pack our cameras, and just then, a young doctor walks in. “This is Dr. Chandrika… she has joined just two years ago. You can get her perspective too, if you like…” Dr. Chaya tells us.
“Yes, sure…” We are actually glad for the opportunity to speak to one of the dynamic young doctors of the Hospital.
“Is this your first Hospital job after your studies and training?”
“No…I worked in two other hospitals for a couple of years,” she says.
“Ok…so, what has your experience been like here?” we throw in a general question.
“First of all, what gives me immense satisfaction is that here the treatment is completely free. Even in a government hospital, where I worked, only the doctors’ services are free, the poor patient actually has to run around for everything from medicines and sutures to collecting blood.
"It is so fulfilling working here because I do not have to think twice before using an additional swab of cotton because it is not going to add to the patient’s burden. Everything here is abundant, and everybody does his or her part only for Swami. So there is great cohesion, the Hospital atmosphere is like a home and I enjoy working here so much.”
“Do the type of cases and work load bother you?”
“Not at all, actually, this is a great place to improve one’s skills. Every day I learn so much…Yes, it does tire you sometimes, but what motivates me is the dedication of the senior doctors here who have been serving for 30-40 years! They are a great source of inspiration, and of course, there is Swami…who is the soul of this Hospital.”
We thank Dr. Chadrika heartily and sneak a quick look at our watch. It’s past 1 p.m.
“Madams, we have taken so much for your time… sorry for the delay.” We submit humbly.
“Oh, do not worry. We enjoyed it too… it is after all His work and His Glory.”
“Absolutely…thank you very much…the only thing we could not do this morning is visit the wards.” We mention rather casually as we pack our camera bags and leave the room along with Dr. Chaya.
“Hmm…you can do that in the afternoon. I will be there upstairs at 2 p.m. Just drop in, no problem.” Dr. Chaya leaves us with a warm smile.
Moving to the Heart of the Hospital - The Maternity Ward
Sharp at 2 p.m. we are above the Gynecology and Obstetrics OPD, where the Maternity ward is located. We look for Dr. Chaya, and after a while spot her coming out of the area marked “Sterile Zone”. She is now attired completely in green, in a surgeon’s dress.
“I am just coming out of the operation theatre….a patient is now being wheeled into the ward. You can come with me now to see the ward.”
“Yes, thank you…” We follow the doctor and enter a spacious, air-conditioned and bright room with in-patient beds placed in neat rows. Soon, a patient is brought into the ward and the sisters help to place the patient from the wheeled stretcher to one bed in a corner. “Here, we have one nurse for every three patients,” Dr. Chaya informs us and adds, “This is a post-operative ward. We have two such wards, three labour rooms, one in-labour waiting ward, another for high risk pregnancies, and also an isolation ward and a special room for any contingencies. In a month, we have upwards of 200 deliveries.”
“That makes it at least 6 cases a day.” We make a quick calculation.
“Right…that’s the average. But you know, on some days it can be even 8 or 9.”
“Amazing…” We want to ask her more about childbirths, but we spot a lady sitting with her sweet baby on her lap near the other door of the room.
“Can we speak to that mother?” We ask Dr. Chaya.
“I want to name my child ‘Sai Ganesh’” - Mrs. Kalavathi, a patient
“Oh… she is Kalavathi, with her second baby, a boy this time too yes, you can ask her what you like”
“Sairam…where do you come from?” We ask the simple and humble Kalavathi.
“I come from Kadiri.”
“It is 100 kilometres from Puttaparthi,” Dr. Chaya adds, looking at us.
“Ok…your baby is so beautiful…can we take a picture?”
Kalavathi smiles, holds her baby closer to her and raises his tiny head a little, very gently. The camera flash goes… and then, we ask, “Why didn’t you go to any government hospital in Kadiri?”
She replies softly, “There is a heaven and hell difference between here and other hospitals. We get such good treatment here….” We prod her to speak more by asking a few more questions, and then, the reticent mother says, “Apart from very good care, here everything is free. My husband is an auto-rickshaw driver, earning Rs. 60 (US $ 1.5) a day. We do not have enough money for a comfortable life let alone for medical care. This is Swami’s Hospital; for us, Swami is God, we have faith in Him, so we came here.”
“Ok…what will you name your child?” we ask.
“Sai Ganesh” comes the spontaneous reply, and she adds, “I want ‘Sai’ in the name, it gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
“Every patient here has a moving story.” Dr. Chaya remarks, and asks, “Do you want to speak to more mothers?”
“No…it’s fine…” We decide not to disturb the mothers and babies in the Maternity ward for long, and also not take more of Dr. Chaya’s time.
“Ok, I need to go now,” Dr. Chaya now says, and then adds, “But, if you like, you can speak to our anesthetist, Dr. Hemadri. I have informed him about your project. Just walk into that enclosure and turn left.”
‘This Hospital will grow to something even more fantastic’ - Dr. Hemadri
“Sure, madam. We will do that.” As she leaves, we follow her directions and reach a room with the sign “Doctors Change Room” at the top. We push the door a little and say, ‘Sairam...’
Immediately, the door is opened for us and we are greeted with the big smile of Dr. Hemadri. There is no need for us to introduce ourselves as he seems to know all about our endeavour. “Dr. Chaya told me you might be coming. She is my wife.”
“Oh…that’s wonderful. She has helped us greatly today and it is so nice to know that both of you have dedicated your lives to this Hospital.”
“Well, it is all His Grace. He brought us here.”
“Right, so probably you too were in the UK for 9 years.”
“So, tell us, how different does it feel working here?”
“You see, there we did our work as a job, but here we do it for Swami - so the approach and motivation is completely different. And actually, He alone is the doer. There are any number of instances where we have taken up very serious cases because we cannot refuse a poor patient, and they have recovered remarkably…we just leave it to Swami. He himself has said, ‘Do whatever you can; leave the rest to Me.’ So that is what we do…often there are difficult cases mainly because of the poor health of the mothers. For example, a baby after delivery does not cry, we do everything we can and finally say ‘Sairam’, and the next moment we hear the thrilling sound of the infant.
“Ok, so most of your patients are to-be-mothers…”
“Yes, 85% of my time is spent in the maternity ward. This hospital has a strong focus on mother and child care right from its inception, though we have several other departments too.”
“Yes, we had a glimpse of the work being done in the Gynecology and Obstetrics Department today, it is absolutely marvelous.”
“Yes, but there are miles still to go. And by His Grace, I know this Hospital will grow to something even more fantastic. After all, it is His Hospital.”
“Yes, of course…” It is past 4 p.m. now, and we see the doctor looking at the table clock for a split second…we decide to wind up the session.
“You must be getting ready for going to darshan now.”
“Yes, but before that I need to do a few things here.” he says with a smile.
“Ok…we should not take more of your time…thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome… you can drop in on any other day too if you have more questions.” Dr. Hemadri now shakes our hands and very satisfied we leave his room.
We now slowly walk down the stairs, trying to re-live all the memorable moments of the day… we switch on our digital camera, and browse through all the precious snaps of the doctors, patients, sisters, mothers, babies….there is so much happening here, and the world has no clue…we wonder, how can we ever convey all these heartfelt experiences in an article…will we be able to do full justice to this ‘Sacred Home of Healing’?
The Multi-faced Marvel of Healing
We are at the bottom of the stairs now, and as we proceed towards the exit gate, Dr. Uma spots us, and with a big smile asks, “So, how is it going?” She had helped us a lot yesterday, so, first we thank her for that, and then say, “Yesterday you told us about so many patients, but not a single word about yourself.”
Her smile immediately shrinks…she dismisses the idea completely, and says “Patients are important, not me…,” and then to change topic, she immediately asks, “So which department did you cover today?”
“We did a lot in the Gynecology and Obstetric Department…that is the heart of the Hospital, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but there are so many other departments too. There is a vibrant Dental Department; the ENT section now does not only general surgeries but also microscopic surgeries and ENT endoscopies; on the 1 st floor there is a full-fledged physiotherapy section; the Orthopedic Department in the OPD screens patients who need more attention and sends them to the Super Specialty Hospital; and then there is Opthalmology, Dermatology…”
“Wow! This is not a General Hospital, but a Grand Hospital…It is going to take us many days just to get a glimpse of what goes on in every corner of the Hospital…It is absolutely overwhelming and enriching that Swami has allowed us to do this work… thank you very much for this information.”
We fold our hands in gratitude, and Dr. Uma responds with “You are always welcome…this is Swami’s Hospital, always open to all.”
A patient now approaches Dr. Uma with a slip of paper and she takes her along with her and disappears into one of the rooms.
“I return recharged to do more for the poor, every year” – Ms. Pillay, a sevadal
“We need to plan our next few days properly so that we do not miss anything,” we say to each other, and approach the exit door. But there is a sudden activity there…3-4 sevadals help to lower a stretcher from an ambulance and carry the patient in a rush. “Maybe an emergency…” we think. Looking at the sevadals, we are reminded of our interviews with two sevadals yesterday. “Why not speak to one today too?” It is a good idea, we all agree. We go near the middle-aged lady standing near the entrance, first introduce ourselves and then request her to spare a few minutes for us.
She agrees. We are glad. We now go to a small room so that we can talk peacefully.
“Where do you come from? And what is it like serving in this Hospital?”
“I am Ms. D. K. Pillay and I come from Chattisgarh (a state in eastern India),” she says, and continues, “I come here every year, because I learn a lot from this place. I am actually a Principal in a Tribal School and I do a lot of social service there. I teach the poor kids the basics of health and hygiene, and human values, apart from regular subjects. I try to do whatever I can with the resources I have.
"Every time I come here, I return recharged to do more for the poor. Swami is doing so much here and is teaching us through so many ways. It does not matter if I do not have His darshan while I am here…He is always in my heart…and He is very close to me…I know it.”
The Hospital is He!
This is another revelation. Again, an eye-opener. The way this edifice of service reaches out to thousands every day through so many mysterious ways is really mind-boggling. Just like Swami, every project of His too has a million facets which are seen, and another one billion that remain unseen. As we step out of the gates of this holy abode, we turn once more, bend our heads, fold our hands and salute reverentially. For, we have now realized that the Hospital is truly He!
End of Part-2
- Bishu Prusty
Vol 6 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2008
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