DELIGHT, DEPRESSION AND DIVINE DELIVERANCE
This is a story of shock, fear, disbelief and ultimate relief – the heart-rending tale of a family’s rollercoaster ride when their infant’s scalp exposed her skull
Venkat and Deepa’s joy knew no bounds as they awaited the birth of their first child at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prashanthi Nilayam. Residents of the town of Addanki in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, they had been married for a year, with Venkat being the breadwinner, and Deepa the homemaker. Agriculture is the couple’s main source of subsistence with Venkat driving a truck during the lean season to provide for his family. Their excitement of parenthood turned sour when, to their utter shock and horror, within days of taking the infant home, they found her scalp tissue degenerating, exposing her little skull.
Luckily for them, they were aware of a healthcare system that provides super specialized medical treatment completely free of cost to every single patient that seeks refuge in its generosity. Founded by the greatest philanthropist with the largest, most compassionate heart on planet earth, it performed a medical marvel and today the gaping hole in Venkat and Deepa’s child’s head is healing and their family is finally whole. Baby Sai Teja is one of the millions who are hale and hearty, due solely to the presence of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at this moment in history.
Having been discharged from the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam, in May, 2009, Mrs. Deepa Rani was ecstatic to hold her perfect little bundle of joy in her arms. Shortly after the smooth delivery, when Deepa Rani and her baby returned home to a warm welcome from the extended family at her mother’s house, never could she have imagined that she would be rushing back with her baby in a state of frantic panic just 20 days later. Things spiraled out of control so fast that the baby hadn’t even been named yet.
New Born Baby’s Terrifying Skin Loss
Just after the mother and baby had gotten back home, Deepa noticed the scalp at the back of her child’s head had turned soft. Even as she was concerned, she hoped it would stabilize but the softness persisted stubbornly. About five days later, the parents noticed that the portion of the baby’s scalp which had turned supple was starting to peel off! Now, the new born’s skull was visible. The young parents were horrified!
With her fragile little baby in arms, the desperate Deepa rushed back to her refuge, the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, where her daughter had been born. Doctors there were quick to realize that the exposed skull was infected and the contagion had entered the baby’s blood stream. In medical terms, septicemia had set in. Immediately, the doctors started a prolonged treatment to clean and clear the wound of the infection. They first dressed the wound and gave the baby medicines to fight the foreign bodies. Once the lesion started healing, they referred the little baby, whom the parents later named Sai Teja, to the Department of Plastic Surgery at the nearby Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, a sister medical facility which provides tertiary care free of cost to all patients, a feature common to all Sathya Sai Medical Facilities and Services worldwide.
Plastic Surgery at Swami’s Hospital was their Only Recourse
At the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital, Dr. D.V. Reddy, Head of the Department of Plastic Surgery knew right away that he had a challenging job ahead. The case was not only critical but also urgent. Any delay in bringing the child to the doctor would have proven fatal for the infant.
The case was uniquely challenging because, as Dr. Reddy explained in an exclusive interview to the H2H team, “When I saw this child, I found a non-healing ulcer over the back, with a bare skull bone exposed at the floor of the ulcer, which would not have healed unless we provided a stable skin flap.
“In my 37 year career as a plastic surgeon, I have not performed this type of operation on a 35-day old child. I have been doing plastic surgery since 1972, but this is the smallest child that I have operated upon and that too on the head!
“On the bare skull bone, ordinary skin grafts will not take, so it will not provide coverage. The ulcer will not heal unless we provide skin with its own blood supply, which we call a flap. So when we used a flap for this child, we had to use a thin skin graft from another area of the skull as a pre-graft for the bed of the flap that we rotate, to cover this bare skull bone.
“But I was not apprehensive because to me, to rotate flaps, and provide a skin graft are basic procedures. However, I will say that in this case with a child at one month, with a bare skull bone, who has just recovered almost from the jaws of death from septicemia –– we had to be very cautious. But since Swami is the one who was blessing the surgery, we went ahead. We are never afraid of any procedures because there is always Swami's help to safeguard all our work.”
The Baby’s Family are Wracked by Fears over Surgery
The medical team’s mightier challenge was to convince the family to consent to this complicated and elaborate surgery on the head of a month old baby. The young parents were terribly afraid and the concerned grandparents didn’t want this tiny baby to undergo such a serious operation.
This is when the staff at the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital swung into team action and counseled, educated and guided the family to have full confidence in Swami’s divine grace and the efforts of the surgical team and give their precious baby a chance to live a full and normal life.
“I was scared, terribly afraid at the thought that my little one would have to undergo a surgery. She was just a few days old. None of us in our family or village had ever heard about anybody undergoing an operation. And my baby was being put through this,” Deepa said, recalling those scary moments.
“I can understand anybody a few years older going through this, he/she will be able to bear it, but I felt my baby was too small for all this,” she said. “The thought of my days-old baby undergoing the surgery made me cry,” she added. For the infant’s father Mr. Venkata Rao, it was the question why it had happened that seemed to be hounding him.
It took a great deal of convincing from the staff of the Plastic Surgery department including Dr. Reddy himself to convince the family that immediate surgical action was required to give his little girl a chance to live. “We had to convince the parents and told them there was nothing to worry about and that the baby’s life depended upon the surgery. After a lot of persuading the family finally consented to the surgery,” the surgeon said.
Dr. Reddy Performs the Life Saving Surgery
On the morning of June 10, 2009 the surgery began. The baby’s maternal grandmother, Eshwaramma, recalls how nervous and anxious her daughter, the young mother Deepa, was letting go of her baby for such a complicated surgical procedure. “She even refused to accompany Sai Teja until outside the operation theatre,” she says.
After the elaborate operation, the baby returned to the ward at around 3:30 p.m. to the great relief of the fretful mother. The little one remained in the ward for about a week and then she was discharged, with routine follow-up appointments to check on the healing process and ensure there was no recurrent infection. All fears had by that time vaporized. The parents and the doctors were amply convinced that Sai Teja was a healthy and active baby.
Looking back, both the mother and grandmother of Sai Teja realize how fortunate they had been. They see their family’s emotional rollercoaster and final victory as a divine design. Had Deepa not come back to her parents’ home during her second trimester of pregnancy in Rasampalli (a village very close to Puttaparthi), and continued her family tradition of turning to the Sai Hospital for her pre-natal care, her child would not have received a new lease of life.
As the baby’s grandmother Eswaramma explains, “We always come to Swami’s General Hospital because of the care and attention they give to the patients. During pregnancy, my daughter was under the medical care of the doctors at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital from the fifth month onwards. The baby did not cry at the time of birth and was kept in the ICU for 10 days. Back home, when the child was given a bath and dried, we were terrified to see that a portion of the skin behind the right ear peeled off almost exposing the skull. We rushed to the General Hospital and they referred the case to the plastic surgeon in the Super Speciality hospital, Dr. Raghav Reddy. Her mother was afraid of surgery as the child is very tender and even thought of returning home. But I have great faith in Swami and decided to go for the surgery. Now we are happy as the surgery was successful.
“Not a single penny is charged here. If Swami’s Hospital is not there, we do not know where we would have gone for treatment. Going for plastic surgery would have been out of question. At home, we always remember Swami’s kindness in providing health facilities to poor people like us totally free of cost.”
The Sai Model of Free, World Class Medical Care
The fear of the financial burden was a paramount concern to the dejected parents. When the child’s father Venkat was told about the surgery, he had to be assured that he was not required to spend any money. It actually took him sometime to come to terms with the truth that both the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam, where his daughter was born and the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, where plastic surgeon Dr. Reddy operated upon her skull, provide such loving and high class treatment to all patients totally free of cost.
So unbelievable and unthinkable is the extreme altruism and generosity of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, that like millions of skeptics everywhere, Venkat found the deal almost too good to be true! Little did Venkat know, that while the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital has been serving the rural and backward communities of the Rayalseema area of Andhra Pradesh as well as from people of other states of India since 1954, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram came up in 1991. Since then they have been providing free treatment to all.
For as far as his mother-in-law Eshwaramma can remember, for any ailment in her family, they have availed the excellent and loving medical care at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital. But it was her little grand-daughter’s shocking illness that brought them to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, for the very first time.
“We had seen the Super Speciality Hospital many times from outside and it looked just like a temple. Today after having stayed here, I truly believe this is not a Hospital but a Temple,” Deepa said. Grandma Eshwaramma added, even in the hospitals where they charge money from the patients, they will not provide such a good service to the patients.
Today, both Deepa and Eshwaramma believe that it was due to the grace of Bhagawan Baba that the baby has a new shot at life. It was but natural that the baby was therefore named Sai Teja. Grandma Eshwaramma explains “It was because of Sai Baba’s grace that my grand daughter has got a new life. It was as if Sai Baba had poured a radiant new life into her, so we named her Sai Teja or Divine Radiance of Sai.”
As Deepa and Venkat’s healthy little doll radiates the light of Sai, the saga of Love that is Bhagavan Baba continues to provide hope and relief to thousands that come to His hospitals for the finest possible medical care, leaving all worries about payments outside the gates of His holy temples that heal like no other facility in the whole wide world.
For more information on the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trusts and its services, please visit www.sssmt.org.in
~ Heart2Heart Team
in association with SSSIHMS