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Home > Cover Story > Part 1  

A medical innovation with a marvellous mission
The Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project, Tamil Nadu
- Part 2 -

Part 2

“Our motto is to love our patients, and love till it hurts, till nothing else exists.” This is what Dr. Rangabhashyam, the distinguished doctor from Chennai, declared while offering the proposal of the Sri Sathya Sai Heathcare Project to Bhagavan Baba, in the presence of 400 medical practitioners, in this month of January, two years ago. And that is exactly what this novel medical initiative has done, if the stories of the beneficiaries as well as participants of this project are anything to go by.

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Dr. Rangabhashyam, the distinguished doctor who submitted the novel medical plan to Bhagavan
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Swami, very keenly, listened to the entire presentation of Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project
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His blessings for the Project were evident
right from the word 'go'
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Bhagavan inaugurated this medical initiative by distributing medical kits to the professionals
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Though it is a ‘virtual hospital’ with no concrete structure of its own, every institution and doctor, paramedic and Sai volunteer associated with this endeavour are bound by a stronger bond – that of love and passion to serve the poor. It is this sacred adhesive that first connects the hapless have-nots to the modern and sophisticated health services otherwise enjoyed by only the well-heeled, and then leads everyone to God.

This noble ideal started on January 28, 2007, when 63 hospitals in Chennai offered to allot one bed free all round the year for a poor patient, and this inspired network of professionals and Sai workers have till now ameliorated the agony of nearly 500 families. And each one’s tale is more heart-rending than the other. Take the case of Lalitha, for instance.

Termination of Cyst and the Transformation of Heart

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Free from a cancerous cyst finally, Mrs. Lalitha says she is filled with His Love
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“I had been living with a cancerous cyst in my intestine for two years, but it seemed as if I had been sick forever; the pain was so severe and the discomfort so irritating,” says the forty-eight year old housewife, Mrs. Lalitha. Life, for her, had become a burden. “There was no way I could carry on my life without getting the operation done,” she recalls.

Therefore, the family started to pool their meager savings. Her husband, who was an accountant- clerk earning just enough to maintain their family, hardly had any savings worth the mention. That is the reason why the Rs. 100,000 needed for the operation felt like a huge boulder sitting on their hearts.

It was now a ‘do or die’ situation for the family, and so, they somehow borrowed the money and prepared themselves for the surgery. Everything now seemed to be moving in the right direction, but just then, tragedy struck.

Like a terrible bolt from the blue, Lalitha’s husband met with an accident, and seriously injured his leg. “We were distraught. In order to salvage my husband’s health, we had to spend all the money we had borrowed on his treatment as he needed it more than me.”

Now, all doors seemed shut for Lalitha, except one – prayer. And that worked! Lalitha’s husband poured his heart’s anguish to his employer, who was a Sai devotee. In no time, they were part of the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project, and on February 5, 2008, her cyst was successfully removed in Srinivasa Priya Hospital, in Perumbur, Chennai.

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The Virtual Hospital in action - Dr. Rajalakshmi examining using an opthalmoscope
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Dr Mohan Kameswaran, engrossed in an operation
at Madras ENT and Research Foundation
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“I want to only share the Love I have been blessed with” – Mrs. Lalitha

“The doctors took great care of us. We did not even feel that we were being treated free; there was no discrimination whatsoever. In fact, Sai volunteers visited us many times in the hospital and were always there whenever we needed any help,” shares Lailtha, delighted to recall those moments. That event had a deep impact on her character and personality, as she says, “I never even imagined all this can happen to me! I am a much better and very different person now. Bhagavan has filled my life with His love.”

Lalitha’s is a story of a dual surgery. While the doctors weeded out her intestinal malady, Someone else had performed on her a heart operation of a different kind! “My faith in the Divine is now absolute. From now on, as much as possible, I o nly want to serve and spread His love. I want everyone to experience the immense joy that I have been blessed with.” This is the new Lalitha that the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project has gifted to the world.

And this transformation happens, not only in the patients who are treated in this virtual hospital, but every person who is associated with this project, directly or indirectly.

The Healers Receive the Healing Touch

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"I am a happier man now" - Dr. M. A. Kabir, who is one of the participating doctors in SSSHCP
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For Dr. M. A. Kabir, National Director of Hypertension Society of India, who renders his voluntary service to this project, the experience has been one of “professional satisfaction and personal transformation”.

When asked about the days of his initial involvement, without batting an eyelid, he says, “When I was approached with the idea of setting up this virtual hospital, I immediately consented to being a part of this noble cause. And so would any service-minded doctor.”

As a physician, Dr. Kabir treats and heals people. But as an individual, he, in turn, receives the healing touch that only selfless acts of Love can confer.

As he confides, “I am a happier man now. The amount of mental satisfaction that I derive by doing ‘my little bit’ in this gigantic project is enormous.”

“This has brought a sea change in my life’s perspective” – Dr. Senthilnathan

Dr. Senthilnathan, the creator and chairperson of Sri Devi Hospital, where the ‘Prasanthi Ward’ was first set up which eventually metamorphosed into the massive Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project as we see it today, says, “After being associated with this programme, my perspective on life has undergone a sea change. Healing the patient, whatever be his condition socially or economically, has now taken precedence over mere money-making.

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Dr. Senthilnathan of Sri Devi Hospital feels that we do God's work, He does our work
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Swami says at least 10% of our income should be allocated for the poor, and this is so important. Else, where can the impoverished go? Actually, it is my experience that if we take care of others, God takes care of us.

Twelve years ago, when we started ‘Prasanthi Ward’, I had only one hospital, but now by His grace, I have two, and both are doing extremely well. In fact, I started the second hospital in Koyembedu, which is located on the Chennai-Bangalore highway, to principally help trauma and accident patients... And all the doctors and paramedical staff of my hospital are always available for any Sai medical camp.

"More than any recognition, the inner satisfaction that I derive on being engaged in these purely service projects is very fulfilling.”

Indeed, the joy of serving selflessly and receiving, in turn, the beaming love and smiles from the patients, wields a soothing influence on all who come under its spell. Dr. Manimekalai, a Director of the city’s Kumaran Hospital agrees.

“I am very happy to be a part of this project. Looking at the grateful faces of the patients, who could not have otherwise afforded all the medical facilities extended to them, gives me a great sense of job satisfaction. The whole experience has brought about a lot of positive changes in my character. When you serve the poor, you become rich!”

Harassed by Hernia, But Healed with Love

Another such ‘rich’ story is the tale of Dinakaran. The 67-year old unskilled worker, living with his wife in Ashok Nagar, Chennai, Dinakaran suffered from an agonising hernia for many years. “Initially, I took homeopathic treatment, but then, the pain never ceased; it was persistent. The doctor then told me that an operation was the only way to end my suffering.

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For Dinakaran, who underwent a hernia surgery absolutely free of cost, the help was unbelievable
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I worked part-time as a salesman in an electrical shop. I have no children, nor savings; we just had a hand to mouth existence. The cost of the surgery, therefore, was absolutely beyond my reach. It was at this time, when I was feeling completely hopeless and clueless, that one of my relatives asked me to visit Dr. Prabhu.

And then, life took a beautiful turn. Dr. Prabhu examined me and then called up Subiksha Nursing Home in Perambur. Within a week’s time, my operation was scheduled.”

“Before the surgery, I was asked to get a few scans done. Even these were done in Precision Diagnostic Centre for free. On September 16, 2007 I was operated upon and discharged within three days…how can I tell you how I feel now? It is all Swami’s grace.

"We never imagined we could get this operation done so quickly, and that too, at absolutely no cost.”

Dinakar’s wife adds, “Initially I was worried because he was being operated for free; I was not sure if we will be taken care of properly. But I soon realised how wrong I was! The doctors checked on my husband, once every hour. Actually, they treated me too so respectfully; I was overwhelmed.

"It was truly beyond our imagination. Sometimes, even when you pay for your medical treatment, you do not get a genial response from the hospital staff, but in our case, not only was my husband operated upon for no charge, we were also showered with lots of love and respect.”

“Now, my faith in God is more than ever” – Mrs. Dinakaran

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The Divine Director and Healer behind the scene
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Dinakaran now takes over. “One of the greatest lessons that I have learnt from this whole experience is that nothing happens without His Will.

"Actually, we had tried to get the operation done quite a few times, but we were always short of the required money. For me, every one of the doctors and nurses who were there around me in that hospital were Swami.”

His wife again eagerly joins in, and states, “Now, I have more faith in God. Earlier I used to be always worried about our many difficulties in life, but not any more; now I know He is there to take care of us.”

The Cosmic Calculus

This confidence in the Supreme Self is probably the highest gift that the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project has given to its beneficiaries and participants. Because once one learns to rely on the Divine, miracles are not uncommon. Sharing his personal experience, Dr. K. T. Sundaram, an eminent cardiologist serving in Subiksha Nursing Home, says, “I have personally observed that in almost all operations, in spite of planning well in advance and executing it meticulously, more often than not, we experience some hitches.

But amazingly, as far as the SSSHCP is concerned, we have not had even minor obstacles. Leave alone delays, we never had even a single case of post-operative infection! How does one explain this scientifically or mathematically?”

The Divine Bastion of Support

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Dr. V. Mohan at his Diabetic Centre -
a committed participant of SSSHCP
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God stands like a citadel by the side of those who are steadfast in their faith and dedicated in His service. When one engages in good work, He takes over the responsibility to assist and aid, guard and guide, and verily, protect and provide at every step.

And this has been experience of many who have been involved in the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project. Actually, there are instances when they have keenly felt His watchful presence, not just in the operation theatre or at the consultation table, but, in fact, even in the mundane promptings of mere thoughts, that remotely pertain to the healthcare project.

The story of Ligi Bose, who works at Mohan’s Diabetic Centre, Chennai, is a classic example. As the personal secretary to Dr. V. Mohan, who is actively involved in SSSHCP, she often had to keep track of the medical camps organised by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Tamil Nadu.

She recounts, “One morning, I was working at my desk, which is right under a ceiling fan. After turning on the fan, I sat on my chair, mentally going through the day’s pending work. Suddenly, I remembered that the free medicines we were to send to the medical camp had not been dispatched.”

“Sai has saved my life, I have no words to thank Him” – Mrs. Ligi Bose

Ligi got up from her desk to pack the medicines. No sooner had she left her seat, she heard a loud thud. Aghast, she turned back, only to find that the ceiling fan had fallen on her chair and had broken to pieces! “Had I not left the room to do His work, I would not be alive to tell everyone about this! I realised that Swami in His infinite grace had reminded me about the medicine and saved my life. I have no words to thank Him.”

She continues, “I was born and brought up as a staunch catholic. I did not believe in Sri Sathya Sai Baba. But slowly, after getting involved in the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project, I have started attending bhajans and other Sai activities.”

Why the SSSHCP is so full of Health, Hope and Happiness

For the Lord, sincere service is what matters, not creed, colour or faith. And this is exactly what has made the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project, a heartening success. If it enters its third year this January with more vigour than ever before, it is because of its inspired and completely committed doctors and other volunteers.

Dr. Ram Manohar Rao, the Chief Medical Coordinator of this programme, who liaisons with the doctors and hospitals on one hand, and the Sai Centres and patients on the other, says, “I am a fortunate man. It moves me when I see the gratitude and love that the patients shower. I am just an instrument, who transmits Bhagavan’s love to the neediest of His children.”

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"I am fortunate man" - Dr. R. M. Rao, SSSHCP's Chief Medical Coordinator
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Dr. Manimekalai, a Director of Kumaran's Hospital, feels the Virtual Hospital's scale and commitment is exemplary
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Dr. Manimekalai, who actually had already been rendering free medical service to the economically challenged in the villages on the outskirts of Chennai for twenty years, says, “Though I was already doing similar service, working for the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project is very special.

This initiative is set on a completely different scale of dedication, enormity, reach and commitment. Now that I am a part of this project, I can confidently say I am fully committed to Bhagavan’s service.”

Sai Sevadals - the Steady and Supporting Pillars of SSSHCP

The other group of people, apart from doctors and paramedics, who are actually the backbone of this noble endeavour are the completely dedicated Sai sevadals. Cloaked in the familiar blue and yellow scarves, they are present wherever there is a gap in this sacred exercise of bringing the best treatment to the economically worst section of the society.

Commending their commitment, Dr. M.A. Kabir from Zohra Madani Nursing Home, says, “We can rest assured that every patient who is referred to us through the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project is going to be 100% benefited. A team of doctors and Sai workers from the Sai Organisation verify the history of the patients before bringing them to us. It saves us a lot of time and effort.”

Yes, it saves a lot of time and money for the patients too, who would otherwise have to make incessant rounds to the hospitals for registration, diagnosis and analysis. And what can only be termed as the Sai-way of serving the needy, the Sathya Sai Organisation does not stop just at routing the patients to the right hospitals. It takes responsibility for the speedy recovery of the patients by rendering emotional, physical and moral assistance to the patients and their families. And this is something which is so vital for the patients’ early recovery.

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It is these sevadals who are the strong pillars
of this moving heathcare initiative
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These dedicated workers ensure that the patients are taken care of physically and emotionally
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“Liquid Love’ – Another Pure Expression of Selfless Service

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The 'Liquid Love' cell - Ever on alert to reach out
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Actually, apart from being there beside the patient physically, another remarkable service that the Sevadals have been engaged in for more than a decade now, which helps these poor patients greatly, is a program called “Liquid Love”. This is a 24/7 voluntary service catering to the blood transfusion requirements of the entire city of Chennai.

Equipped with a computerised database of interested blood donors and their essential contact information, this non-stop service has saved innumerable lives since its inception in December 1998. For instance, in the initial year itself, at 2 a.m. one night, this cell received a call from St. Isabels Hospital in Mylapore asking for blood urgently for a young man with a ruptured spleen.

Five donors located in Mylapore were immediately alerted and the requisite blood was made available at the hospital within 45 minutes, which was the time stipulated by the hospital.

“The blood offered by Sai devotees is always good and timely. And more importantly, they offer it with so much love and devotion as if they were doing it for their own family or friends,” says Mrs. Jyostna, the Public Relations Officer of Vijaya Hospital Blood Bank. It is the same experience with other Blood Banks and hospitals in Chennai. Mr. Raj Kumar of The Madras Voluntary Blood Bank, says, “The prompt service offered by the ‘Liquid Love’ cell based in ‘Sundaram’ must be commended.

Moreover, the meticulous and committed manner in which the sevadals conduct Blood Donation Camps is exemplary. Apart from planning it well in advance and doing plenty of preparatory publicity systematically, on the day of the event they receive the donors with a lot of respect and affection. No wonder every camp is a resounding success! If only every blood donation drive in this country was organised this way, then we would be having ten times more than the number of people donating presently.”

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The Blood donation drives organised by the Sevadals have redefined the way these camps should be done
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Everyone who donates blood receives much more in return - the sevadals fill them with love
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Dr. Selvraj of the Government General Hospital, which always has a great need for emergency blood donation, says, “The annual all-day blood donation camp conducted by the Sai Organisation on Global Blood Donation Day is something remarkable. Nearly 7-8 camps are conducted simultaneously on that day collecting over 500 pints of blood. The attitude and the spirit of selflessness which with the Sai volunteers perform this sacred service, is what should be really appreciated. It is a yeoman service to humanity.”

The ever-ready-on-call ‘Liquid Love’ cell, with a database of over 5000 records, is manned 24 hours of the day by a band of dedicated volunteers, each of whom offer at least 4 hours of their time every single day. And this is an initiative which is now complimenting the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project in its own unique way. Therefore, without the sincere love and selfless time and energy of the Sai sevadals, the SSSHCP is unthinkable.

SSSHCP – A Healthcare Model and a Marvel of the Twenty-first Century

In His Valedictory discourse during the International Cardiac Conference in 1995, Swami’s principal message to the medical fraternity was only this – “Make love the capsule that you offer to your patients…anything you do with love will be rewarding.” This is the Divine direction for medicare of the 21 st century and Bhagavan has amply demonstrated to the world, through practical examples, what should be done and how it can be achieved.

At the crux of the issue is not availability of financial resources, as many would imagine. All it needs is a will and passion to reach out to the poor. Imagine how stupendous a service it would be if such virtual hospitals were up and running in a mammoth scale in every corner of India, and in every country? And this is possible. Because as they say, where there is a will, there is a way; but where there is a pure will, which is divinely inspired, there are innumerable ways. And the Sri Sathya Sai Healthcare Project is just one among them – a simple but superb one at that.

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The sole inspiration of the silent revolution that is heralding a heartening dimension of modern healthcare
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Since the 1950s when Bhagavan Baba set up the first Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital in Puttaparthi, every successive decade has seen a determined leap of Bhagavan in extending this Sai system of holistic healthcare, where the poor are offered the best care possible, with love. In the seventies, the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital in Whitefield came into being, and in 1984, Swami inaugurated the new and modern General Hospital in Puttaparthi. The nineties dawned and the Prime Minister of India opened the first completely free Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi, a decade later Bhagavan set up another such marvel of healing, now in the metropolitan of Bangalore.

And with the coming of twenty-first century, we now see an impressive Super Specialty Hospital in Chennai, without an edifice but as efficient and equipped, and delivering the same quality of service as the ‘Temples of Healing’ in Puttaparthi and Whitefield. What a glorious simulation of Sai Medicare Vision! For the medical administrators and professionals of the world, there are plenty of lessons, if only they open their eyes, and more importantly, their hearts… to Love.

End of Part 2

Part 2

 

- Bishu Prusty
Heart2Heart Team

 

Dear reader, how did you like this story? Did it inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories focussed on Bhagavan Baba's medical mission? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. We look forward to your feedback, comments and suggestions to help us serve you better. Thank you very much for your time.

 


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Vol 7 Issue 01 - JANUARY 2009
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