Volume 7 - Issue 11
November 2009
Other Articles

Healed Inside and Out

A deadly brain tumour struck a young sales man from small-town India, threatening to shatter his life and dreams. This cruel and sudden blow of fate shocked his entire family, including his young wife and baby boy.

As Bhupendra faced the darkness of a severe economic crunch and lack of access to a specialized healthcare facility, a dazzling light appeared at the end of his tunnel, brightening more than just his prospects of a healthy, normal life. His tryst with the Sai healthcare system healed him and his family at multiple levels.

In this Healing Touch story, Sonia Thakar walks us through a family’s journey from despair and darkness to hope, health and faith.

“Twenty years ago I took my mother to Bombay (now Mumbai) for treatment. Three months later I returned home with her dead body. This time around, when I came to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS), Bangalore to look after my sick brother, I feared I would be returning home with his lifeless body,” says Mr. Nagendra Sarathe, with tears in his eyes. The patient, Bhupendra, chides his brother for this unnecessary display of emotion and smiles at us.

Two months prior to that day Bhupendra had never even heard the term ‘brain tumour’. Today, he has not only experienced what it is to have one, but also is well on his way to recovery after surgery and most amazingly, he’s even thankful to God for having given him that condition, and because of it, a life-altering experience!

 

It’s been eight weeks since Bhupendra last saw his son’s cherubic little face. He has almost forgotten the face of his 9-month old baby boy. But he has no regrets.

“When I saw the hospital building from the outside, I thought that we had been brought to the wrong place. It didn’t look scary or like any other hospital I had ever seen. It was a holy temple and my yatra (pilgrimage) had just begun,” says Bhupendra, recounting
those days with happiness.

Deadly Disease Strikes Like a Bolt from the Blue

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Thirty three-year old Bhupendra Kumar Sarathe lives in the small village of Naisari near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, in Central India. He works as a sales officer with a beverage giant. One night he got up at 1.30 a.m. to visit the toilet. Later, try as he might, he couldn’t go back to sleep. He walked around his small house, mulling over work-related issues and finally returned to his bedroom and switched on the television. The rest is a blank in his memory. His wife later told him that suddenly he gave out a loud cry and fell into convulsions. Terrified, she ran to get the landlord who rushed him to a nearby hospital.

Weighing Life, Money and Risk Factors

The CT scan showed Bhupendra had a meningioma on the skull base – in other words, a brain tumour. It was the first time Bhupendra heard the term. But strangely enough, it didn’t freak him out. Well, at least, at first. The gravity of his condition hit home, only when his colleagues from work came visiting the next day with scared faces which seemed to say, “O god! We are so sorry. This is probably the last time we are seeing you alive”.

“The doctor said that I needed an operation. But there was no way we could afford the Rs. 75,000 ($15,00) that it would cost on my five thousand a month income. There was a lot of risk involved – he said I could lose my sight, my memory or even my life. It was then that the seriousness of this ‘brain tumour’ hit me hard,” recalls Bhupendra.

Wife’s Uncle Points to the Temple of Healing sans Expenditure

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It was at this low moment that Bhupendra’s father-in-law’s brother told them about a hospital in Bangalore that wouldn’t charge them a rupee for the surgery. The mere mention of this hospital was indeed a ray of hope for the distraught family and they booked their train tickets.

“When I saw the hospital building from the outside, I thought that we had been brought to the wrong place. It didn’t look scary or like any other hospital I had ever seen. It was a holy temple and my yatra (pilgrimage) had just begun,” says Bhupendra, recounting those days with happiness.

It was a Friday morning when the family reached SSSIHMS, Bangalore. After the initial screening process, they were told that they would have to wait until Monday for further tests as it was a long weekend due to a festive holiday. “I suggested we go to Puttaparthi and see this Sai Baba in whose free hospital we had put all our faith in,” recalls Bhupendra. “As I sat in the darshan line and Baba came in His chair, I felt as though He was looking straight at me. I was way back in the crowd, but His eyes just seemed to pierce right through me.”

Power of Darshan Confers Unshakable Faith, Divine Magic Begins

At that moment, something changed. Actually, everything changed. Bhupendra’s anxiety, pain and worry - all evaporated. It was as if a burden had been lifted.

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“At that instant, the realisation dawned on me - the tumour was simply an excuse to bring me and my family to Sai Ram’s fold,” says Bhupendra, his heart full with his new-found love.

The next 11 days at the hospital passed as if in a dream. Bhupendra didn’t bat an eyelid when the doctor told him that his tumour was big and the operation might be a complicated one. Dr. Ganesh Murthy was the consultant who saw him. He says, “The surgery was complicated because the tumour was very close to the optic nerve that supplies the eyes. It was also a very vascular tumour, so the chances of excessive bleeding were more. When I told the patient about the risks involved it didn’t do anything to shake his confidence, though his relatives were worried about how the operation would go.”

Positive Attitude Speeds Recuperation

Bhupendra wasn’t afraid when they wheeled him into the Operation Theatre. He took Swami’s name and prayed to His picture in the ward before he was taken to the OT. When he regained consciousness he felt as if Baba Himself had performed his operation. Two days after the operation, he had recovered so well that he felt as if some magic was at play. “Baba has truly given me a second-life. This hospital is like a mandir (temple). Sitting here and singing bhajans, I am transported to Puttaparthi. This place has sanctified me,” says a grateful Bhupendra, “Even the noise from the MRI machine seems to say Sairam! Sairam!”

“Unlike other patients Bhupendra’s attitude was unique. It is very rare for us to come across patients being grateful to God for their illness. He beamed as he told us that this tumour had brought him to Swami. He seemed to have transcended into a state of spiritual awareness ever since he experienced Swami’s divine darshan at Puttaparthi. Post-operatively he did not experience any pain and could not stop talking about his elation and overwhelming awe of constantly experiencing Swami’s omnipresence.” 

Gita Umesh is the Senior Counsellor at SSSIHMS, Bangalore, who counselled Bhupendra as part of the post-operative care that the hospital offers. She says, “Unlike other patients Bhupendra’s attitude was unique. It is very rare for us to come across patients being grateful to God for their illness. He beamed as he told us that this tumour had brought him to Swami. He seemed to have transcended into a state of spiritual awareness ever since he experienced Swami’s divine darshan at Puttaparthi. Post-operatively he did not experience any pain and could not stop talking about his elation and overwhelming awe of constantly experiencing Swami’s omnipresence.” 

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Mrs. Gita Umesh, Senior Counsellor in Swami's Hospital in action. Her team counsels dozens of patients everyday

Extended Family Rejoices at Marvellous Recovery

The only worry Bhupendra has now is to go home and be able to support his family. The doctors have advised him against driving for the next one year, and that means he will be unable to continue with his sales job. But his faith in Swami has diluted his fears for the future, and he knows that his supporting family is there for him.

His brother Nagendra says, “We’ve promised to buy him a new bike next year when he can drive again!”

It may have been a traumatic period for the Sarathe family but today, not only have they gotten through it, they have also come to realize that the brain tumour was a blessing in disguise. They are even able to joke about it. “I always liked Shirdi Sai Baba. Now look at me! I look like him!” jokes Bhupendra with his bandage wrapped around his head like Shirdi Baba’s head scarf.

Illness Paved Way for Spiritual Awakening

Bhupendra is determined to give back to society what he received from this sacred hospital. He wants to reach out to others who need medical help back home. Through the SSSIHMS counselling department he got in touch with a doctor from Bhopal who is involved in service activities such as medical camps within the Sai Organisation of Madhya Pradesh, and plans to join him eagerly at the earliest.

Alongside Bhupendra’s post-operative recovery, the entire Sarathe family has had a change of heart. As Bhupendra heals from the scars of the complicated surgery that saved his life, his entire extended family has had an inner healing and a spiritual awakening.

So deeply touched are they by the top quality treatment met out to Bhupendra in the hospital where the only currency ever traded is pure love, that the whole family wants to take part in the Sai mission in whatever small way they can. Bhupendra’s father has vowed that the family will make a ‘paadyatra’ (pilgrimage on foot) to Puttaparthi – walking barefoot a distance
of about 1300 kilometres from Bhopal to have darshan of the Lord who saved the life of
their precious son. He also plans to build a temple for Sai Baba in their village. That is the least
that a grateful father can do, he feels.

“Sai Baba is Shiva Shankar!” - Nagendra

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Bhupendra’s eldest brother, Nagendra who took care of him after the operation, has also had all his initial doubts dissolved by now.  When he first came to the hospital from his native Madhya Pradesh to look after his brother, he prayed to Bhagavan Bholenath or Lord Shiva for a sign – and in response to his yearning, he saw a snake (an auspicious sign associated with Lord Shiva) and his anxiety quelled.

But when the doctors told them about the risks involved in the operation, fear set in again and he was convinced that he would lose a brother, just as he had lost his mother twenty years ago. “I cried in front of Swami’s picture that He should save my brother. The day before the operation, I asked Him to show me a sign… and another snake crossed my path. I knew that my beloved Bholenath was indeed Sai Baba and Sai Baba was none other than my beloved Shiva Shankar!

Today, as the patient and his family experience healing at multiple levels, Bhupendra is determined to give back to society what he received from this sacred hospital. He wants to reach out to others who need medical help back home. Through the SSSIHMS counselling department he got in touch with a doctor from Bhopal who is involved in service activities such as medical camps within the Sai Organisation of Madhya Pradesh, and plans to join him eagerly at the earliest.

As he prepares to return to his family, to hold his little son and enjoy a new lease of life gifted to him by the Sai healthcare system, he is brimming with enthusiasm to touch lives the way his has been touched - so deeply.

- Heart2Heart Team
in association with SSSIHMS

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