The twinkle in his eye and the gentle smile playing on his face, both belie the fact that he underwent a major open-heart surgery very recently. Only the suture marks across his sternum will reveal to you the real story.
Sri Pradeep Kumar Sahu is a bright young boy from rural Orissa. Youngest in a family of 5 brothers and 3 sisters, he was a pampered kid. No wonder everyone was concerned when, at the age of 8, he started showing worrying symptoms: he used to fall down unconscious while playing and used to have frequent coughing fits. His father, a poor farmer, took him to the local doctors, who prescribed some medicines to counter the symptoms. Things seemed fine with Pradeep for a while.
Though from a farming community, Pradeep seemed to be born with an innate desire to become a doctor. A very hard working boy, Pradeep used to study in the light of a candle, as the modern day comforts of even simple electric lighting hadn’t reached his home yet. His hard work bore fruit when it happened that, in a family where none of the other children passed even the 8th standard, Pradeep went on to top his class in high school and later in the pre-university course.
His health problems persisted amidst his success in school and college. He used to participate in the college games, but used to feel very exhausted afterwards. It was during a Zoology class in the pre-university course that Pradeep had a premonition that his heart was not normal. Soon after Pradeep ran a high fever and when taken to the doctor, he was diagnosed as having a heart problem. He was then referred to a cardiologist.
In a country where farmers’ lives are closely intertwined with the vagaries of nature, the life of Pradeep’s father was not very different. He was not well to do, and imagine his consternation when the cardiologist diagnosed Pradeep to have a congenital heart problem, involving his aortic valve, where instead of the regular three cusps (a cusp is a thin triangular flap of a heart valve), Pradeep’s valve had only two, causing various complications. Pradeep needed an immediate aortic valve replacement, the cardiologist said. He was further dismayed when he heard that the operation was to be performed within seven days and that the surgery would cost him around Rs.1-1.5 lakhs! This shook the entire family very badly, needless to say.
During this difficult time, if there was one person who remained calm throughout, it was Pradeep himself.
He had a deep-rooted faith in God and treated Him as his best friend. He regularly contributed poems and short stories on God and Nature in Oriya (his mother tongue), which have been published in various spiritual magazines. He had the faith that God would come to his rescue. He met his teachers in the college, who agreed to pool up as much as Rs. 40,000 rupees for his treatment, but this was way below what was needed to save his life.
His desire to become a doctor still burnt brightly within him. As his family and teachers couldn’t bear to see him exert himself, they wanted him to discontinue his studies. But Pradeep had set his mind on becoming a doctor and used to secretly prepare for the medical entrance examination. He took the exam in 2001 but he couldn’t clear it. A born fighter, he took the exam again in 2002, but he still couldn’t clear it. His family and the doctors coaxed him to give up, but in the face of adversity, his desire to become a doctor seemed only to grow stronger.
It was at this time that Providence led him to a person who had benefited from a pacemaker implantation at Swami’s Hospital at Puttaparthi. This person introduced Pradeep to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and narrated about the existence of His beautiful edifices of love and caring, the Sri Sathya Sai Institutes of Higher Medical Sciences, which stood out as beacons of hope to the poor and needy, who could not afford expensive medical treatment.
Pradeep and his family were thrilled on hearing this and their hearts were filled with hope. Pradeep, accompanied by his brother, came to Prashanti Nilayam in 2002 for a checkup at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Puttaparthi. The doctors confirmed he did need an aortic valve replacement and that he would be sent a letter calling him for the surgery.
Pradeep had his first Darshan of Baba during this visit. He felt a surge of love attracting him to Baba and felt as if he was in the presence of his life-time friend, about whom he used to write. Baba’s saying, “Why fear when I am here” gave Pradeep a lot of courage and mental peace with which he went back home.
Mentally at peace, Pradeep took the medical entrance examination another time in 2003 and this time, he came out a ranker, ranking 205 amidst fierce competition from thousands of other applicants. Soon afterwards, he secured admission in a good medical college in Orissa, with the help of a bank loan and a scholarship, both awarded due to his merit performance.
The admission process wasn’t without its share of hardships, though. As he was suffering from a heart problem, he was declared “medically unfit” to join college until he got his surgery done. His heartfelt prayers to God and sincere appeals to the authorities met with success. On mentioning that he would soon be operated on by the Hospital at Puttaparthi, the authorities agreed for his admission.
Pradeep was now on his way to become a doctor, but his heart didn’t allow him an easy time. He had to live in a hostel, 600 kms away from home and had to go through the rigours of attending classes for eight hours a day. He was completely exhausted by the end of the day. He used to draw strength by going to the wards and seeing the suffering patients. This used to enthuse him and he came back to his room, recharged in his enthusiasm to become a doctor and serve his suffering brethren.
During the course of his studies, he was periodically examined by the medical college cardiologists and they urged him to get the valve replacement done immediately. In 2004, when his condition seemed to worsen, he came to Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bangalore, where a balloon dilatation was done as a temporary step to ease his discomfort and postpone the valve replacement. He went back to college, studied hard and passed the Ist year MBBS with flying colours.
In Sep 2005, he came once more to the Whitefield hospital. This time he was admitted and the valve-replacement surgery was performed. Recuperating in the post-operative ward, Pradeep is now a relieved young man. He is all praise for the Hospital and the staff.
“This place cannot be called a hospital. It is a Temple …a Temple of Health . I’ve never received so much of love before. The doctors, the nurses and all staff are so loving. The doctors, knowing I am doing my MBBS used to give me text-books to read so I do not get bored. I shall forever remember their loving and caring treatment,” he says with great emotion.
More than his words Pradeep’s eyes speak eloquently of the joy, peace and love he has received directly from the Institute and from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who is the driving force behind these “Temples of Healing”.
Pradeep will now be able to concentrate on his MBBS studies with full vigour and go on to achieve his desire of becoming a doctor. He desires to become a neuro-surgeon, which he knows demands a lot of finesse, sharp reflexes and sensitive hands.
We wish Pradeep all the very best in all his endeavours.
- Heart2Heart Team