Posted on: Aug 29, 2011
HOW DESTINY DEFTLY DROVE THE LIFE OF A TAXI DRIVER
Through a Janitor and Many Other Beautiful Souls
The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bengaluru was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India in the Divine physical presence of Bhagawan Baba in January 19, 2001. On the day of the inauguration, Baba said,"Our aim is to cure the patients of their ailments and send them home happy and healthy. I am happy only when the poor are served."
For ten years, this hospital has done just that. The story of every person and every child who has stepped into this edifice of healing is exceptional, not because they are tales of how this hospital provides the best of care to the poorest of the poor in one of the biggest metros of India but because they are moving slices of life of simple people who have been touched with Pure Love.
When their just-born Sujan was diagnosed with a hole in the heart, Sumanth and Sujatha of Hassan district, Karnataka took him from one hospital to another to fortify their darling’s weak heart, and of course their own hearts. But there was only so much a taxi driver could afford to spend. Crestfallen, as they cursed their fate, Destiny smiled and today theirs is a picture of a happy and sweet family. So how did this transformation come about? Let us find out as Mr. Y. Arvind, the Public Relations Officer of SSSIHMS, WF narrates the story:
The white cab swerved smoothly and parked alongside the kerb, in line with the rest of the vehicles. The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple built in 1246 was still a distance of a kilometer away, being one of the fifty odd temples that dotted the district that were either protected by the Archaeological Survey of India or the State Government under the Muzrai. But resources being low most of the temples were in a state of disrepair and locals commented that had the investment in tourism been better, the temples would last another ten generations. All said and done, people would still come and visit these architectural marvels and the transport business would always exist. The driver alighted and opened the doors for his fare. It was still mid morning and the appointment with the doctor was in the afternoon. He could make it back to his wife and son waiting at home. If not today, he would have to go again tomorrow; he had no choice.
Directed to Hope by the Janitor
Resting inside a bucket of disinfectant, the mop stick stood leaning against the corner made by balcony and the wall. It was lunch time and the janitor had retired to the canteen to converse with his cohorts and update his knowledge with the latest gossip. It would be an hour before he got back to the long corridor he had been mopping and so he decided to take all of it. He reasoned, ‘being a janitor is not all child’s play.’ It took time to be able to hold the stick at the right angle, and the right length, to be able to swing it in a graceful arc and step back just the right distance to trace the reverse arc below the previous one. In the evenings, the trajectory his mop described on the tiled flooring reflected in the slanting rays of the sun and he marvelled at his handiwork. It was like painting a picture, without colour. He took pride in what he did and did a good job. After all he was working in a hospital and hospitals were meant to be clean. What if his grandchild were to be admitted here...
Father Muller Hospital (Mangalore) was the biggest in those parts and people from all around came for treatment there. Today, the lines had been exceptionally long. The janitor had finished the second round of mopping for the morning and after his hour long lunch, sufficiently fortified in both victual and the morning’s gossip, he returned to his domain. The ever present crowd of patients and their attendants lined the corridor on either side, some seated on the benches laid out along the wall, the others standing, yet others in wheel chairs, mothers carrying babies, fathers stoically maintaining a stiff upper lip, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles… the mosaic of humankind and its web of relationships filed past as he made his way to the familiar corner.
The mop stick left its bucket and began tracing its patterns. As he moved backward down the length of the corridor, people made way for it, stepped out of its way when it reached them and stepped back on the spot it had cleaned. As he passed a bench he saw a young couple seated with a little child in their arms. Normally he would have passed them but for the fact the young mother was weeping and the father was unsuccessfully trying to console her. The little child wrapped in a striking red woollen wrap rang a bell.
“…We will try other hospitals, I will take a loan, if necessary we will sell the taxi, we will raise the money for the operation.”
“If you sell the taxi how will you be able to support us?” She countered through her desperate attempts at maintaining composure.
“There are many ways to earn…I will find some job somewhere as a driver. Don’t cry, we will find some way…”
The mop stick reached the end of an arc and stopped. The old man recollected that he had seen them at the paediatricians place in the morning, and then at the X-ray department, the problem was obviously with the child he reasoned.
“What is the matter?” He interrupted.
The father looked up at the grizzled, lined face and hesitated.
“It’s all right, you can tell me, I’ve been here a long time and I may be able to help you,” said the janitor. “And don’t worry, I don’t want anything from you.” He added.
The father looked at his wife and with a deep breath began…
“My son has a heart problem, we got to know this a month after he was born. I am a taxi driver and have been trying to save up for the operation. The doctors said that surgery is the only solution. He is now eight months old and today, downstairs, they diagnosed him as having pneumonia. We need to treat this first and then get the operation done as soon as possible. The doctors are saying that if the surgery is not done immediately…” he left the words hanging. Fresh tears began coursing down the cheeks of his young consort.
The old man did not think long, “Have you tried Sai Baba hospital?” he asked leaning on the mop stick.
“Sai Baba hospital? Where?” said the father.
“Bangalore. Sri Sathya Sai Baba has built a free hospital there. Everything is offered to the patient totally free of charge. Go and try there.” He spoke in a matter of fact way; it was not a suggestion but more of an order.
“Free as in a Government hospital?” asked the father.
“That is not a government hospital. Go there and you will find out. I am told Sai Baba is the only one offering free medical care to all patients in the world. I have not gone there. But I have sent many. And though people do not come back to tell me about what happened, they do not come to this hospital either. I prefer to think that they are fine now. I can only advise. The choice,” he pointed to the child nestling in his mother's embrace, “is yours…”
The mop stick resumed its movement, the arcs in almost mathematical alignment. The floor was being cleaned and this would be done every day. It was a job, a routine, something like night and day, like life and death. The couple looked at the bowed head of the janitor as he focused on his job. Their heads swivelled and eyes met in silent concurrence. “Let’s try!” they seemed to say to each other.
That was seven years ago.
The Ailment in Sujan's Tender Heart
In February 2010, in the Critical Care Unit of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Sumanth and Sujata held their seven year old son Sujan. It was the day Sujan was going home; he was being discharged.
“The problem was identified within one week of his delivery, in 2003,” began Sumanth, the happy father. “Dr. Pattabhi in Mangala Nursing Home, at Hassan, told us that the baby had a heart problem and we needed to get the checkup done. We got the ECHO (Echocardiography) done in the same nursing home and they told us that he had a hole in the heart. They did ECHO three times and each time we paid Rs.1200. They also told us that surgery was the only option and we had to plan for it. Cardiac surgery does not come cheap. We did not have the money and resigned ourselves to our fate. We decided we would take care of the boy as much as we could and beyond that it was God’s Will. We named our son Sujan and towards the end of 2003, he got pneumonia and that was when we went to Father Muller Hospital. There again they did ECHO and told us to get the surgery done immediately.”
“I just could not control my tears and was crying, then the cleaner told me about this hospital,” added Sujata. “We had already spent a lot of money on Sujan’s medication, we did not know what to expect. Government hospitals have a different definition of free service; only a part of the process is free and they charge for the rest of it. Also the quality of medical care provided is not always reliable. We had seen it with our own eyes. So when we heard this hospital was free, we had our own doubts. But nevertheless, we had no choice, so we came.”
Doubts Disappear at First Sight
“We landed in Swami’s hospital in December 2003,” I could not help but smile when I heard Sumanth call the SSSIHMS with the endearing name we all addressed Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. ‘Swami’ translates to Master or Lord. “The moment we saw the hospital, we knew we had come to the right place. There is nothing to fear when the hospital looks like a temple. In temples there is only God. When we had placed our faith in God, He brought us to His hospital.”
When faith is answered and doubts are dispelled, words come forth in quick succession in praise of the benefactor. When it is reinforced with the hand of God making magic, faith is joined by conviction and steadfast devotion.
“After the registration we came to the Out Patient Department. The ECHO was done again and the doctors agreed that Sujan had a hole in the heart.”
It was an ASD (Atrial Septal Defect), a hole in the wall that separates the upper two chambers of the heart.
“We were told that the child is too small for surgery and there are known instances where with age the holes close on their own. The doctors suggested that we wait and see if the same would happen for Sujan. We were told to come back after four years when he was sufficiently grown up and could withstand surgery. If the hole had not closed by then, we were told the surgery would be done. This was far different from the other hospitals where they were pressing us to go in for surgery.”
Sujata added, “We asked the doctors here why they were postponing the surgery and they replied saying that, cardiac operation cannot be done again and again on the same patient. As far as possible the issue should be medically managed and only after all other avenues are exhausted, we should do surgery. The doctor was very nice when he said, ‘better allow Nature to heal itself rather than interfere and mess things up. But we were assured that we could come back to the hospital anytime in case there was an emergency.’”
Sujan was put on medical management and observation. The parents returned to their home town, their hope renewed that now there was a place that would help their son. They came in 2004 for a checkup and Sujan was still too small. They were put on the waiting list and told to wait for the call letter. Things continued uneventfully for seven years - from 2003 to 2010. This goes a long way to show how much the human body can adapt and sustain itself. One begins to wonder at the words ‘you need immediate surgery’ that are so quickly used in most institutions.
|Cardiac catheterization involves passing a thin flexible tube (catheter) into the right or left side of the heart, usually from the groin or the arm; this can be for both investigational and interventional purposes. In Sujan's case, this was done to help close a hole in his heart without having to do an open heart surgery.|
The Call Arrives
Anyways, the call letter arrived in early 2010 and they were told to come to the hospital. They drove down in their own taxi and came to the hospital on February 11, 2010. The process was now well known to them and they reached the Out Patient Department in time. This time they were in for a surprise. The Cardiologists evaluating Sujan asked Sumanth and Sujata whether they were ready for surgery. The parents replied in the affirmative. Then the doctors informed them of a new procedure, called device closure. The hole in Sujan’s heart could be closed without having to do open heart surgery. It could be closed in the Cardiac Cath lab (Catheterisation Lab) itself. The parents were nonplussed but agreed to any procedure that would help their son. The dotted line found a signature.
Sujan was scheduled for the Pre Admission Protocol and sent for dental checkup in the general hospital (Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield). Clearance was obtained on February 15 and he was admitted on the same day. After a quick check in the ward he was put on the list for device closure the next day.
Sujan was blessed because a team of cardiologists and electro-physiologists from the University of Utah, USA were in the hospital for a two week workshop exclusively on Device Closure. He was on the table and in less than an hour was on a bed in the CCU sleeping off the effects of anaesthesia. A couple of hours later he was up and alert. By evening the swelling on his thigh, where the catheters had entered his body had begun to subside and by next morning the wound showed healing. The doctors came to the CCU and did a post procedure ECHO on him. The device had settled perfectly and Sujan no longer had a hole in the heart. He was normal. He was declared fit for discharge.
Sumanth and Sujata could not believe their good fortune. The spectre of an extended stay in the hospital, the long descriptions that they had heard from others about life long scars and the recovery in the Intensive Care Units, secondary infections, post operative complications, had just vaporized with a one hour procedure in the Cardiac Cath lab. Their son was ready to go home; he was normal!
Their Child's Heart Was Healed and Their Hearts Were Lightened
“We are very happy; we have no money, how much can a taxi driver earn and how much more can we save. This is really godsend for us. This hospital saved lakhs of rupees for us and gave our son a new life. All these years we had to take financial help from my mother, elder brother and sister, but now there is no further need for troubling anyone. Swami has solved all my problems at one go,” said Sumanth.
“Ever since we came to Swami first seven years ago, I have been going for bhajans every Thursday. There is a Samithi in Hassan that I regularly visit on Sundays. I have a photo of Swami at home and we also went to Puttaparthi before we came here. We were blessed with good darshan and we will go back there once again to offer our gratitude in a couple of weeks. We just want to make sure our son is okay before we travel to different places. I have my own taxi, and so travel is not a problem.”
“I know how to drive,” said Sujan unexpectedly, and then launched into an animated explanation on the ABC, Accelerator, Brake and Clutch. “I want to join the military,” he concluded. For a mind that only looks forward to tomorrow, there are no 'ifs', 'buts' and 'maybes'. The mind of a child is the most beautiful of things. To be able to be happy, to find joy in dreams, to be able to dare to dream… well, one is most happy when one is able to find the child in oneself.
It was evening by the time the discharge summaries were signed. The family of three climbed into the vehicle and set off on their journey home. Back to their little village, Nakalagud in the Alur Taluk of Hassan district (in the State of Karnataka); they were going back to where it all began.
In Father Muller Hospital, the janitor swung the mop stick one last time. The corridor was clean. The setting sun threw long shadows of the pillars along the corridor on the floor. The arcs were fading but the tiles shone clean. The janitor had done his job well. Today was over, but tomorrow is still another day.
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