SATHYA SAI BABA, TRANSPLANTER
OF MY HEART
SOME TIME AGO, RADIO SAI BROADCAST A SERIES RELATING
TO THE EXPERIENCES OF SAI DOCTORS. THE ARTICLES ON WHICH THIS
SERIES WAS BASED WAS TAKEN, WITH DUE PERMISSION OF COURSE,
FROM THE BOOK INSPIRED MEDICINE,
EDITED BY JUDY WARNER, AND PUBLISHED BY LEELA PRESS IN USA.
WE PRESENT BELOW THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE ARTICLE BY DR. VALLUVAN
JEEVANANDAM OF AMERICA, WITH NOTES FROM OUR SIDE.
DR. JEEVANANDAM IS A BRILLIANT HEART
SURGEON WITH HEART TRANSPLANT AS HIS SPECIALISATION. TO START
WITH, HE WAS A NON-BELIEVER, AS IS OFTEN THE CASE. AND THEN
CAME A DAY WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR HIM TO BECOME A SAI DOCTOR
AND SERVE THE LORD. OVER NOW TO DR. JEEVANANDAM…..
Baba says that He will call us only when it is the proper
time. The first time I heard about Swami was in 1980. My aunt
took my mother, sister, and me to visit Kodaikanal and insisted
that we go to see Baba there. She said He was a holy man who
would grant interviews, materialize things, and predict the
future. At that time, there were about 200 devotees in Kodaikanal.
I could have had close, personal experiences with Baba. But
my mind refused to accept anything spiritual at that time.
I spent the subsequent ten years finishing
medical school and my residency in cardiac surgery. Religion
and spirituality were the last things on my mind. My sole
focus was making a lot of money, buying a huge house, driving
luxurious cars, and eating at the best restaurants. A life
of material wealth was mine for the taking.
Baba started me on the divine path without
my ever realizing it. My parents have always been religious,
especially my mother. I have disappointed her many times by
not learning Slokas and doing
daily prayer. My parents moved to Arizona and began attending
the Sai Baba center in Mesa. Whenever my family and I visited
them, they would take us to Sunday Bhajans. That was not exactly
what I wanted to do during my short vacations. I would even
try to schedule the plane flights to avoid the Bhajans. But
with my mother's guidance, I started to listen to and actually
enjoy Bhajan tapes. My interest in Baba was further heightened
when I read Howard Murphet's Sai
Baba: Man of Miracles. Baba was no longer
an entity to run from, but not one to be believed either.
Bhajan tapes slowly replaced pop music as the preferred music
in the car.
most dramatic event occurred in November 1992 during a visit
to Arizona for Thanksgiving. I had prepared for the long flight
with the usual set of novels and other time-consuming materials.
After I got on the plane and opened my bag, none of the reading
material I had packed was there. The only book was The
Vision of Sai by Rita Bruce. Absolutely nothing
else! Without any options, I started reading the book, clearly
expecting to fall asleep within half an hour. Well, I was
never so mesmerized and moved by a book. Swami had finally
caught me. I was previously a non-vegetarian who really enjoyed
every meat dish possible. I stepped out of the airplane a
vegetarian, much to the utter astonishment of my wife and
parents. I have remained a pure vegetarian, despite eating
at some of the fanciest restaurants in the world. All my previous
acquaintances were astonished. I was finally on the divine
path toward Swami.
The next big event that catapulted me toward
Swami occurred in April 1993. We had a guest speaker at one
of our Sunday Bhajans who told us about the new Super Specialty
Hospital in Puttaparthi where cardiac surgery is done absolutely
free. Because I was also a cardiac surgeon, I was introduced
to the speaker. During the conversation, he said that the
availability of artificial heart valves was limited in India
and asked whether there was anything I could do to help. I
had absolutely no idea how to proceed further. Valves are
very expensive in the United States and, being a new attending
physician, the spirit was there in wanting to help, but the
wallet was not. This was to become one of Swami's amazing
The next day, I got a call from an old friend
from whom I had not heard in a year. It seemed that he had
switched jobs and was working for St. Jude Medical, the largest
manufacturer of heart valves in the world. Furthermore, he
was in charge of the Asian market. He arranged for me to buy
valves at cost and, in addition, arranged for a matching donation
from his company. In one telephone call things went from impossible
to reality. Later, a representative who sold sutures contacted
me. He had a huge overstock of very expensive heart sutures
and wanted to know if there were any hospitals doing charity
work that could use them. Swami was guiding me through an
incredible shopping spree. Finally, it was the middle of May,
and I had a lot of equipment but no time off to take it to
India. We were short on faculty, and there was no relief in
sight. My prayers to Swami were answered when we were finally
able to recruit a very good surgeon. However, he wanted three
weeks off to visit his family in Japan. Without my asking,
my boss came to me with a proposition. Since the new attending
physician was taking time off, how about if I took an equal
amount of time off in July? I was dumbfounded. Even without
asking, I was being given time to visit Puttaparthi. Swami
was reeling me in.
I set out to India with more than $30,000
worth of equipment. Of course, the Customs Officer in the
Bombay Airport, sensing a big financial bonanza, wanted to
charge import duty despite my telling him it was all charitable
donations. I started praying for Swami's help. Just then the
supervisor arrived. The second he heard it was for Swami's
hospital, he ordered his men not only to help pack the sutures
in a suitcase, but to help transport everything to the domestic
terminal for the trip to Madras. Swami is always testing one's
faith, but He will always come to the rescue at the bleakest
THREE MONTHS LATER, DR. JEEVANANDAM
RECEIVED AN INVITATION TO SPEAK IN THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL
SYMPOSIUM ON CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE, BEING HELD IN PUTTAPARTHI.
AND SO, TO PUTTAPARTHI THE YOUNG DOCTOR WENT. WE PICK UP THE
STORY FROM THERE.
The Symposium ended, and I had to stay an
extra day to catch my flight back to the United States. In
the morning, Swami granted me an interview. I had not expected
this, although I had previously written down a list of questions
in case I was granted this privilege. I went to the interview
room with several others whom I do not remember, and with
Dr. Donald Ross, probably one of the greatest surgeons in
the world. Imagine me, an upstart, sitting next to this luminary.
Only Swami can pull these diverse groups of people together.
I had practiced all my questions and was "ready for
Swami." Of course, the second I went inside, I completely
melted. I was totally overwhelmed. I sat down across from
Swami, and He started talking about very practical things
such as money, family, and work. By this time I had completely
forgotten about my "wish list," but Swami went right
down the list, item by item. It was as if He were reading
what I had written. He truly knows everything.
At the end of the interview, Swami gave me
some Vibhuti, and I left for Bangalore. I had put some very
precious things in a bag: Swami's Vibhuti, other mementos
from the conference, and some pictures presented to me by
a doctor who, in turn, had received them from Swami. I checked
into the hotel in Bangalore and went to the airport at night
for a flight to Bombay. To my horror, I had misplaced the
bag. I probably left it in the taxi from Puttaparthi. There
was no way to retrieve it. I told my contact about this at
the Bangalore airport about 30 minutes before departure. However,
no one even knew which taxi I had traveled in from Puttaparthi.
I felt I had lost the most precious things in life. I got
on the plane, and the doors closed. Then there was a delay.
I was getting a little anxious, as I had a connection to make.
Just then, the doors reopened, and airline officials asked
if I was on board. I thought I must be in a lot of trouble.
A person came to me, dropped off the bag with all of my precious
belongings, and left. I did not know him, nor did any of my
Bangalore contacts with whom I later spoke. This was another
one of Swami's miracles!
By the way, since that interview, I have
become much more comfortable discussing God's work with my
patients. Many of them are desperately ill and come to our
institution because their cases are hopeless. I tell the patients
that, although I will do my best, there is certainly a chance
they may die, and that God is the one who determines that.
I am just a humble instrument of God's action. I try to steer
their hopes away from me and have them focus on God. The patients
who truly believe in God and say they will completely leave
it "in the hands of God" have recovered remarkably
well. This is the power of faith and prayer.
AND NOW, A FEW FASCINATING MEDIAL
EXPERIENCES THAT DR. JEEVANANDAM HAS HAD.
We had a patient at Temple University who
had a massive heart attack, became very unstable, and was
rushed to surgery. He needed several important blood vessels
bypassed but, when his chest was opened, we found that the
heart attack had been so big that all the usual landmarks
we use to find the vessels were completely obliterated. I
searched for more than 20 minutes without finding any vessels.
Everyone in the operating room was getting nervous for, if
those vessels could not be found and bypassed, the patient
would surely die. I was dissecting on the back of the heart
to find the vessels, frustration and anxiety mounting. Just
then, I heard the words, "Sai Ram." No one else
in the room was a Baba devotee, so those words startled me.
In addition, I felt a sharp pinch in the middle of my chest
just where I wear Swami's materialized ring as a necklace.
My hand moved involuntarily, and I made a cut in the patient's
heart. Right there, in an area where we never would have found
it, was the main artery. Two others were found quickly, and
the patient did very well. Everyone in the operating room
wanted to know how I had done that. I told them it was luck,
but that it was helpful to have God on our side. Clearly,
I was acting as an instrument of the Lord. Ever since then,
I have, on occasion, felt a pinch on my chest in the exact
spot where the ring is touching me. Of course, this makes
me instantly think of Swami.
Another story involves Arunan Sivalingum,
an eminent retinal specialist. At the young age of 37, Arunan
was considered one of the foremost ophthalmologists in the
world. He was health conscious, despite leading a very busy
and stressful life. He experienced some nausea and vomiting
and went to the emergency room at his institution. The most
likely diagnosis was an ulcer, so he was being prepared to
receive a gastroscopy. As a part of the routine, he also had
an EKG, which showed a massive heart attack. He was rushed
to the cardiology suite, and an angiogram revealed massive
coronary artery disease. He became unstable and was rushed
to the operating room. The surgeons performed bypass surgery
but were unsuccessful in recovering the heart. They placed
him on a temporary heart-assist device and debated what to
do with this dying patient.
This is where
Sai incidents take over. It so happened that one of the doctors
in charge of the intensive care unit had just attended our
conferences on transplantation and end-stage heart disease.
She immediately encouraged the surgeons to refer him to us
at Temple. In addition, Arunan's wife was best friends with
the wife of our medical director of transplantation. Arunan
was transferred early in the morning and went directly to
our operating room. He was unconscious, was on a ventilator,
had his chest open, was bleeding, and had poor blood flow.
The mortality rate of such a patient is about 80 percent.
I took one look at him and my heart sank. Here was an important
member of society, a young, energetic husband and a father
of four, including a newborn. Only a miracle could save him.
Just then, the nurses pulled back the sheets in preparation
for surgery. There was a picture of Swami. Arunan's mother,
a long time devotee, had taped a picture of our Swami to his
upper arm. My nurses were surprised. They exclaimed, "Hey,
that's the dude in the picture at your house Val." I
started thinking that maybe now we had a chance. We started
the surgery and proceeded to stop the bleeding, take out the
temporary device, and implant a more permanent artificial
heart. The idea was to get him better and wait until a heart
transplant could be done. The surgery was tricky, and we barely
got him through. He was transferred to the intensive care
unit in a grave condition. The slightest complication would
mean death. He remained unstable.
I had to go to a very important meeting in
San Francisco I had postponed attending many times. I left
him in capable hands and boarded the cross-country flight.
Arunan continued to bleed, but his blood flows were acceptable.
I kept in constant contact by sky phone. Then, his flow started
to go down. He was starting to die. Opening his chest again
would surely have killed him. I gave a bunch of orders, but
things were looking bleak. At that time, my plane began its
descent into San Francisco, and the sky phones were shut off.
The only option was to pray. I told Swami that Arunan was
completely in His hands. There was nothing
we could do. That was around 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast.
I went to the hotel room fully expecting disaster. I called
the hospital in Philadelphia and spoke to the resident, who
was giddy with happiness. At exactly 9:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.
on the West Coast, and also Swami's special number, a miracle
had happened. Arunan stopped bleeding, and his blood flows
improved dramatically. By the next day, he was off the critical
list and did spectacularly well with the device. He ended
up going home and even operated on patients while on the device.
It was truly a miracle.
That was only the beginning. He was on the
device without any complications, which is rare, for more
than nine months. With Swami's guidance, I was contemplating
a career move to Chicago. But I felt a personal responsibility
to have Arunan's transplant done before I left Philadelphia.
During a Sunday Bhajan, I prayed hard to Swami. I did not
want to leave without finishing what we had started on Arunan.
During meditation, my beeper went off. A heart available,
but there were seven people ahead of Arunan. I told the coordinator
to send blood for matches on everyone. The coordinator asked
twice about sending blood on Arunan because he was so far
down on the list. I insisted. Through divine grace, every
one of the patients above him tested poorly. Swami had designated
this heart for Arunan. We proceeded with the transplant. I
placed Vibhuthi on Arunan and, again, there were more than
15 people in the room watching, but no one actually saw me
do it. The transplant was truly divine. It went without a
hitch. I could feel Swami taking over the operation. There
was no other way for it to go so perfectly. The new heart
jumped back to life. Everyone in the room was absolutely amazed;
this was the best heart anyone had seen. Arunan has done great
since then and, with Swami overlooking things, he will continue
to do so. He has become a strong devotee and has sent his
curriculum vitae to Swami to ask for permission to work at
the hospital in Puttaparthi. I am sure that Swami will get
him there one day. Swami has always said He will open His
hands, and the best doctors will come. They just come at different
times and by different paths.
ABOUT FIFTEEN MONTHS AFTER ALL THIS
HAPPENED, DR. JEEVANANDAM WAS BACK AGAIN IN PUTTAPARTHI. JUST
BEFORE HE WAS ABOUT TO RETURN TO AMERICA, SWAMI GRANTED HIM
AN INTERVIEW. OVER NOW TO THE DOCTOR’S DESCRIPTION OF
Swami graced us with an interview at the
absolute last moment. When He asked me what I wanted, I said,
"Your blessings," and He told me that I always had
them. He asked again, and I said, "Your grace,"
and He gave me the same answer. Finally, I said, "Whatever
you desire Swami." He materialized a silver ring with
an Om sign. He asked what silver meant. Purity,
He replied. He then took back the ring, blew on it and it
became gold, with His picture on it. He put it on my finger;
again, a perfect fit. During our personal interview, Swami
had asked where my diamond ring was. I told Him that I wore
it as a necklace. He then took off the ring that He had just
materialized, blew on it, and it disappeared. I guess if you
don't use it, you lose it. Swami then asked about my work.
"Fine," I said. He responded, No
good, too much jealousy.
That was the first time Swami had said that
there was a problem with work. Externally, everything was
perfect. We had built a new house, I was director of the largest
transplant program in the United States, and my career, with
Swami's grace, was blossoming. But Swami knew, and He clearly
predicted the future. He then materialized a nine gem (Navaratna)
ring for me, which I wear along with the other ring, on a
TIME PASSED, AND UNKNOWN TO DR. JEEVANANDAM,
EVENTS WERE SHAPING TOWARDS HIS MIGRATION TO A DIFFERENT PLACE.
THE DOCTOR WAS ABOUT TO LEAVE FOR INDIA FOR YET ANOTHER VISIT,
AND JUST THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED.
Just before I was to leave for India, I received
a call from the University of Chicago, asking me if I would
be interested in interviewing for the position of Chief of
Cardiothoracic Surgery. I wanted to postpone speaking to them
until after the trip to India, but they insisted, so I went
for a day. Certainly, being asked to be the department chief
at a very young age, in such a prestigious institution, could
only be influenced by Swami's hand. I was happy to be asked,
but Temple University countered with a similar offer, and
it was going to be much easier to stay where I was. When I
arrived in India, Swami was in Whitefield,
ON ARRIVAL, DR. JEEVANANDAM BECAME
IMMERSED IN WORK, AND WEEKS FLEW BY. AND THEN….
On the day I was to leave, I fully anticipated
another of Swami's usual Leelas,
figuring He would postpone the interview until the last possible
minute. Of course. He was as unpredictable as always. The
second I passed through the gates of Brindavan, several devotees
came directly to me and said Swami wanted to see me for an
interview in the morning. Swami started with the usual How
are you, doctor? He then went ahead and solved one
of my main dilemmas. When we perform bypass surgery, it is
conventional practice to use veins as grafts for the procedure.
I like to use arteries instead, as they are naturally meant
to handle high pressure. Veins are obtained from the legs;
they are long, and easy to work with. Arteries are obtained
from the arm, chest wall, or the stomach they are much shorter
and less forgiving in terms of length. Why not maintain the
artery in its natural state instead of transforming a low-pressure
vessel, such as a vein, into an artery? It is much more technically
demanding and tricky to do this, so only about 5 percent of
cardiac surgeons do this type of operation routinely. In my
practice, and at Swami’s Hospital, we had implemented
a system of using arterial grafts as much as possible. However,
there is no way to prove if this is better, and we won't know
for at least five to ten years. I've always wondered whether
the extra effort was worth it but, despite the lack of conclusive
medical data, I believed in my heart that it was. Then Swami
answered my dilemma by describing how I do not use veins,
that I use arteries, which is a better and more advanced technique.
I no longer need scientific proof. Swami validated all of
the extra work involved in using arterial grafts.
I started asking Him about Chicago and,
before I could finish, He took my hand in His, told me He
knew about the move, that He had arranged it, and that I must
go. It was a direct command from the divine.
AS SWAMI FORETOLD, DR JEEVANANDAM
DID MOVE TO CHICAGO, BUT THE MOVEMENT WAS NOT AN ORDINARY
EVENT; RATHER, IT HAD A BEAUTIFUL DIVINE TOUCH, AS JEEVANANDAM
We, indeed, moved from Philadelphia to Chicago.
It would never have happened without Swami being so forceful.
Every time I thought of all the things we were giving up in
Philadelphia, Swami's words came to mind. From a practical
point of view, the move did not make sense. The program was
more established at Temple University; I made more money there,
we had an incomparable house; and I had the respect of the
community. But faith in Swami and His forceful words made
the move possible. At one point, I was really having doubts,
and I wrote a letter to Swami from my office. I asked for
a sign that this move really was what He meant. Just then,
my secretary knocked and said a Dr. Mulder was calling. I
told her to take a message, but Dr. Mulder was persistent.
I took the call, and he said he was an alumnus of the surgery
department of the University of Chicago. He gave me a ten-minute
discourse on why I should move. I later found out that no
one at the University of Chicago knew of a Dr. Mulder. It
was Swami Himself giving the sign I had wanted. He always
answers our prayers, just in different ways than one would
This is just a small sampling of my experiences
with Bhagavan Baba. Since I have witnessed and participated
in Swami's miracles, my entire attitude toward life has changed.
I have been taught humility, compassion, and to serve mankind.
Swami sets high standards, and I do not know if I can ever
reach them. But, with His guidance, I have been directed onto
the right path. I have a long way to go, but my Lord and Guru,
Sai Baba, will surely get me there.
WELL, DEAR READER, WHAT DO YOU THINK
OF IT? DO YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE? IF SO, WHY DON’T YOU
TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT SO THAT THEY TOO CAN READ IT AND EXPERIENCE
BY THE WAY, WE SHALL PUBLISH LATER
THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH DR. JEEVANANDAM THAT
WAS BROADCAST OVER RADIO SAI. ALSO, THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE
INTERVIEW WITH DR. SIVALANGAM, WHO RECEIVED THE HEART TRANSPLANT!