Volume 5 - Issue 04 APRIL 2007
...THE RIVETING STORY OF MR. GEORGE MELKAY
A Smooth Path to Prosperity
“It was a golden opportunity for me.” A blooming smile suddenly sported on his bespectacled face, as Mr. George Melkay recalled the rewarding job that came his way exactly three decades ago in 1977. It was the first time he was leaving the shores of India to Bahrain, the borderless island country in the Persian Gulf. And he was excited about it. Life could not have been better - at least it seemed so at that time. A chance to work in Bahrain Airport Service immediately after graduation in those days meant a sure route to prosperity. He knew about this very well as many of his relatives and countrymen stood as live testimonies. They had all taken this silken route and within a short span of time had become affluent.
The Road Leads to a Precipice
So, back in the seventies, with a flourishing career, many Malayali (Kerala natives) friends and his marriage which happened in the early eighties, George Melkay was a contented man with nothing to complain of…until life suddenly took a decisive turn in 1990. After enjoying perfect health for over a decade, he was down with a high temperature. But this viral fever was no ordinary malady, it was adamant and elusive. George was hospitalized in the American Mission Hospital, a century old private hospital in Bahrain’s capital city, Manama. Two weeks went by but there was no conclusive diagnosis. In desperate search for a cure, he then moved to the primary public hospital of Bahrain, the Salmania Hospital. Fifty days passed in the bed of this government hospital, still no doctor could precisely pinpoint his problem.
It was devastating for George, to say the least, for, all his dreams were now slowly turning to dust as he saw his years of savings gradually dissipate away. The worst part was he was still not diagnosed, let alone receiving the necessary treatment. He was now scared. What could his disease be? What will it mean to get treated? Will it be curable at all?
On the fifty fourth day of his stay in the Salmania Hospital, thanks to an Irish lady doctor, George did get a confirmed diagnosis for his prolonged sickness. But he did not know whether to cry or smile. While on one hand, he was happy that after months of inconclusiveness and guessing, finally there was an unambiguous verdict; on the other hand, the diagnosis was daunting and dreadful.
From Pillar to Post, With Little Hope
“Both your heart valves – mitral and aortic – are completely damaged,” the doctor confided. “If you want to survive, go back to India and get a double-valve replacement done in a super specialty hospital - the sooner, the better.”
The doctor’s advice was clear. George now had no choice. He was in India on the next available flight. Such was the cruel twist of fate in his life that years ago he had gone to the ‘land of plenty’ empty-handed with his mind full of big dreams, and now, after putting in thirteen long years of service, he returned almost empty.
George returned to his village, disheartened. But his friends and well-wishers comforted him. “Do not worry. Take a second opinion,” everyone said. And George again set forth to Trivandrum. This time to Sri Avittom Thirunal Hospital, one of the premier specialty hospitals of Kerala, started more than 50 years ago catering to nearly 50,000 in-patients every year. The doctors here confirmed the diagnosis. “You must get operated soon,” said Dr. Jay Krishnan, an eminent Cardio Thoracic Surgeon. “But it cannot be done here,” he added. “It is better you go to Madras (now Chennai) and get it done at Madras Medical Mission Hospital or at the Apollo Hospital.”
Two and half months of hospitalization, kilometers of strenuous travel, four hospitals and dozens of consultations later, George was still clueless. Life had become a hopeless journey. As a last attempt, he went to Madras. The doctors in the Madras Medical Mission Hospital, which was known for its finest super-specialty cardiac care, were ready to perform the operation. “You will need a double valve replacement surgery,” they said unambiguously. “But it is very expensive, at least one and a half lakh rupees!” Completely crestfallen, George gave up all hopes of any possible treatment. It was impossible for him to even think of such a huge amount (mind you, 150,000 rupees in 1990 would mean at least Rs. 400,000 now). The last few months in Bahrain had reduced him to a pauper. And it was not only the big money, the hospital also told him to arrange fifteen people who would donate blood for cross-matching, with instructions that they should be from his native village and not from the city of Madras, to be safe from HIV and other infections. Moreover, “It is a high-risk surgery,” the doctors cautioned.
Gloom and Doom, and Then…Divine Grace
It was after he returned completely distraught from Madras that George met Mr. K P Aravindakshan; one of the seniors from his school and a Sai devotee, it was this concerned friend who first shared the good news. “Do you know Sai Baba has a Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi which is completely free?” he asked George. Now, ‘Sai Baba’ was not completely new to George. Back in Bahrain, he had occasionally visited the Sai centre, but that was not because he believed in the divinity of Baba, but to give company to his friend, Sri Surendra, who was a Sai devotee. Besides, he enjoyed the ‘Bhajans, beautiful songs and the nice prasadam’ he confides now. But ‘Sai Baba’, at that time for him, was far from anything divine. He was more of a ‘magician’ than anything else.
Greatly influenced in his college days by the books of Mr. Bertrand Russell, a twentieth century British atheist-philosopher and rationalist, George, like many of his college mates, had turned into an atheist early in his life. Believing an ‘orange-clad South Indian saint’ as God in human form was completely out of question. Nevertheless, the news of a “free Super Specialty Hospital ” was too alluring to let it go. If it really existed, he felt, that would mean the end of all his problems. He trusted his friend’s word and agreed to make the trip.
In January 1993, George, accompanied by Aravindakshan, set foot for the first time in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Puttaparthi. After conducting all the diagnostic tests and detailed consultation, the doctor confirmed that he needed a valve replacement, and that it will be done free, but he will have to wait for a year or two till he receives the invitation letter from the Hospital. This did dampen his spirits for a few moments but still George was much happier. In fact, he had not been in such a positive and pleasant state of mind for three years. Intuitively, he felt, all was not over with his life. He knew now he had hope - lots of it.
And the surgery apart, George was simply overwhelmed with the Hospital, its ambience and philosophy. “I could not believe this Hospital was giving free treatment!” he says, his eyes lighting up instantaneously. “I had seen so many hospitals in Bahrain and this was much more sophisticated, neat, tidy, modern and more importantly, the atmosphere was so serene. Such a Hospital giving free treatment…it was out of the world! Immediately I fell in love with it,” he recalls, but this experience also had an interesting fallout.
George then stayed in the Brindavan ashram for three days basking in His blissful darshan, before he returned to his village along with other devotees after the conclusion of the festival. But his mind was filled with moving memories of those three days. His illness had in fact, gone into the background. And then something wonderful happened. It was just one week since he had returned and Swami, appearing in his dream, said, “There is nothing to worry. I am here. I will take care of you.” Ecstatic, George wanted to interact with Swami more but just then his daughter, who was a two and half years baby then, cried and his dream instantly disappeared. Nevertheless, the ‘dream assurance’ of Swami had made George euphoric. He immediately woke his wife and said, “My Swami was here! He told me there is nothing to worry.” But his wife, a staunch Christian who had little faith in Baba, just brushed the whole experience aside, and even talked lightly of the whole episode. “Oh! You probably did not read the Bible properly. You are always thinking of that Swami. Look here, nothing has happened. You must start making arrangements now to get the operation done in Madras.”
The Lord Wins His Wife’s Heart Too!
George did not know how to convince his wife about the truth of his Baba dream. He tried once or twice, but his wife was never receptive, she remained a skeptic. But suddenly on the third day after his dream, all this changed. Swami came to his rescue by appearing in his wife’s dream too! It was life-changing experience for her. “From here on,” she said, “I will not say anything about Swami.” In fact, she was scared to even think or utter anything against Swami now.
By now, George had become a Sai devotee. The dream had instilled enough faith. He, in fact, now wanted to come to Puttaparthi to serve as a sevadal volunteer. When his friend Aravindakshan asked him in January 1994, if he would like to join the volunteer-group going to Puttaparthi, George grabbed the opportunity. But he had his own apprehensions about him being a Christian and if he will be allowed to serve, etc., but once he reached Puttaparthi, he realized all his fears were completely unfounded. Interestingly, he was allotted duty at the Super Specialty Hospital.
Divine Assurance Like No Other
It was twenty days after returning and now there was a telegram from Puttaparthi. ‘Start immediately for observation and treatment, and if necessary, surgery’ - the message from Swami’s Hospital read. And exactly at the same time, George received another post. This was an envelope from Trivandrum sent by a sevadal-friend whom he had developed an acquaintance with while serving at the Super Specialty Hospital in January that year. When he opened the cover, George was thrilled! It was a photo of Swami blessing him! Somebody had taken a snap when he was kneeling after touching His Feet and the loving Lord was comforting him. And this friend from Trivandrum had apparently found this picture in a photo studio before he left Puttaparthi and so thoughtfully had bought it. But the most amazing aspect of this episode was that both these letters had arrived on the same day, at the same time!
“As long as there is breath in this body, I will serve in this Hospital.” - George Melkay
Not only the surgery, George was also given free medicines (to be replenished every six-months by the Hospital) which he had to take regularly to keep his new heart in perfect order. So overwhelmed was George with the care he received at the Hospital and grateful to Swami for all the love He bestowed on him at his hour of great need that immediately after he was discharged from the Hospital, he made an oath: “As long as there is breath in this body, I will serve in this Hospital at every available opportunity.”
And true to his resolve, George Melkay has been serving at the Hospital traveling from Kerala twice every year continuously for the last fourteen years. When H2H saw him recently, it was his twenty-fifth hospital duty. Apart from these two trips to serve at the Hospital (which is usually in January and July every year for a period of seven or fourteen days), George also visits Puttaparthi regularly for Swami’s Birthday and the Kerala festival of Onam. So in all, it is at least four visits per year. Puttaparthi, for George, has become his second home. Though he may not have had many opportunities to interact with Swami physically, George knows fully well that Swami is taking care of him every moment. When his son secured admission into the XI class in Swami’s school at Puttaparthi in 2000, Swami had answered another heartfelt prayer of George. He was now more convinced than ever that ‘If one does God’s work with sincerity and dedication, He does our work.’
A Heart Renewed, A Life Transformed
This is the story of just one patient-turned-sevadal of the Super Specialty Hospital and we know for sure there are any numbers of such volunteers working silently in the Hospital. In fact, it is these ‘unsung heroes’ who are the real torch-bearers of His mission.
- Heart2Heart Team
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Vol 5 Issue 04 - APRIL 2007
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