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Volume 4 - Issue 12 DECEMBER 2006

Apeksha: Hope springs eternal...

By Sri Y arvind

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come. –

Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

Jagdish and Suma Shetty – Nestled in Mumbai


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Chowpatty's Beaches

Mumbai is the city of light and glitz. This commercial capital of India has a very complicated history. It is a city built out of seven islands Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman's Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion. The original name given by the Portuguese was ‘Bom Baia’ which means ‘Good Bay’ in Portuguese. The British later corrupted it to ‘Bombay’ and the name now is the name that the original fisher folk inhabitants of the islands, the Kolis gave – ‘Mumba’ after Mumbadevi, the Hindu deity to whom a temple is dedicated at Babulnath near Chowpatty's sandy beaches.

There can be no front without a back. All the glitz and glamour of Mumbai hides the very real existence of equally real people with their joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain, successes and failures…in short it is a city like any other. In this city lived a couple Jagdish and Suma Shetty in the Dadar area of Mumbai. Mr. Jagdish Shetty, self employed in business also ran a hotel in Mumbai. They were expecting their second child. Already the proud parents of Priyanka, their first daughter, they were looking forward to adding to their threesome after seven years.

Their Lives Turn ‘Inside Out’…

But fate had a terrible shock in store. Their little girl was born with a congenital anomaly called “Bladder Exstropy”. Bladder exstropy, more properly, the exstrophy-epispadias complex, is a rare congenital birth defect occurring once every 40,000-50,000 live births with a 2:1 male:female ratio. This defect involves the malformation of the bladder and urethra, in which the bladder is turned "inside out". The bladder does not form into its normal round shape but instead is flattened and exposed outside the body. The lower portion of the bladder, a funnel-shaped bladder neck, made up of muscles that open and close the bladder, fails to form correctly. The urethra and genitalia are not formed completely and the Uro-genital organs appear displaced forward. Additionally, the pelvic bones are widely separated. The diagnosis involves a lot of anomalies of the lower abdominal wall, bladder, anterior bony pelvis, and external genitalia. Treatment is with surgical correction of the defect, but patients can still have long term issues with urinary tract infections and other problems.

The urine drips continuously and this irritates the skin. In addition, there is no control over bladder movement. Moreover there is also likelihood of urinary infection for the child. The fear of infection involves continuous prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic treatment. Initial surgery is carried out within 24 to 48 hours after birth, for closure of bladder by bladder neck reconstruction. The second stage surgery is done after three years or so. This is to repair the genitalia, achieve urinary continence and urethric reimplantation.

A Slim Chance

They named their daughter “Apeksha”. One of the connotations of the name is “hope”. It was all they had when beset by this vagary of fate. They visited the Holy family hospital in Mumbai and after consultation with Dr. Nishant Nanavati (pediatric surgeon) the vital initial surgery was done; and the second stage had to wait for the required three years. The doctors in Mumbai had estimated the costs at Rupees four lakhs for this surgery, with only 50% chances of success. Dr Ransley of USA, an authority on these surgeries said: “Life-long bag carriage for the patient or life-long catheter usage.” In plain English it means: the patient would have to carry a urine bag always to collect the urine since there will be no control or a urinary catheter would have to be inserted to drain the urine as and when it collects in the bladder. Both the situations condemn the patient to a life of ignominy and social embarrassment.

Despite having major hospitals like the Hinduja hospital and the Lilavati hospital, the assurances the parents received did little to assuage the fact that it would take a miracle for their little daughter to lead a normal life. But as it is often said, to be normal in itself is a miracle. And miracles as all of us know – do happen. All of us ‘normal’ people stand testimony to that – come to think of it God is always a part of our lives whether we accept it or not and it is He who decides the when, what and how of all Destiny.

The Dawn of Hope

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Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram

One day some of their family friends came home with the good tidings that there was a free hospital in Prasanthi Nilayam called the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS) which had a department of urology and nephrology which offered all medical care free of cost; from diagnosis to surgery. They did not know anything about the hospital but then what is destined will happen. After spending more than five lakhs in medical bills, they were overjoyed that such an institution existed that offered free medical care of such high standards.

They came to Puttaparthi and approached the SSSIHMS. Apeksha was admitted and things were moving smoothly but the parents out of their sincere devotion to the Lord whom they had accepted as the head of their family, poured out their anguish into a letter and offered it to Swami. During one darshan session He accepted the letter and blessed them with the go ahead for the surgery.

Thereafter the surgery commenced expeditiously. Her congenital condition was rare, delicate and complicated and required sufficient advance preparation. So she was treated with special care so that she did not contact any infections from other patients. To make sure that all would go well, in Apeksha’s words, “I was given a royal treatment by the staff. A special single room, lots of toys and physically carried about, instead of on a stretcher!” She was definitely a special child not because of her medical condition; but because she spread sunshine wherever she was. The nurses who were taking care of her recollect her to be a very sprightly and cheerful child despite her physical discomfort. Truly it is a blessing to be able to make another smile unmindful of ones own suffering. Her innocence warmed every heart that came to know her.

The Big Day


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The big day arrived and Apeksha, then five years old, was operated on January 14, 2003. It was not by coincidence that the day also happened to be the holy day of Makara Sankranthi, the harvest festival, and the auspicious time when the sun begins to move northward. In God’s plans there are no coincidences.

The surgery was performed in the Operation Theatres of the Department of Urology, SSSIHMS, Prashantigram. Dr. K.S. Ramgopal was the chief surgeon and he operated on her for a marathon seven hours. He stopped only when he was sure that the entire procedure was complete and nothing else was left to be done. He covered every base and anticipated every complication and worked with prophylactic intent. Apeksha was wheeled out of the theatres and was under constant, intensive observation for the next twelve hours. Her vital signs stabilized and slowly, yet steadily she improved. Times passed and Apeksha lived up to her name – hope that burns eternal in man’s heart found expression in her life. The turning point came when the doctors advised the parents that the anti-biotic drugs which she was receiving since birth were stopped a mere six months after the surgery. The pain and fever is gone, no more bed wetting, and no signs of the adverse effects of long term anti-biotic usage.

Apeksha on the Ascent!

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Apeksha - A shining star

The operation was a great success. Almost two years and ten months later, Apeksha now is a normal, active child, bubbling with joy. Fair and fit as a fiddle, bright, charming and very exuberant, talking nineteen to the dozen, it is really amazing to see her recovery in such a short period of time. Academically too she is shining and her star seems only on the ascent. She stood 1st in her class IV and is now maintaining her high standards even in class VI. She wins prizes in elocutions and is the Compeer for Annual Day programs in school. Gifted with a good voice she sings well and has Sai bhajans in her house every Thursday, and the entire family participates. Her father Mr. Jagdish Shetty, mother Suma and sister Priyanka, who is also a brilliant student, all have full faith that Swami is the Divine power which they had been praying to all the while. They look forward to opportunities to pass on the great blessing of good health that God provided to their family – Free of cost – with no strings attached.


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What we receive in life is destiny how we face it is self effort. More often than not we fight circumstances in life unable to understand them. What we don’t understand, we fear! And fear leads to insecurity. Insecurity weakens the spirit and this leads to further lack of understanding. That is the reason why it is said: Don’t fight circumstance – use it as the eagle does the winds to soar or the fish to the currents in the ocean. There is a time and place for everything and it is God who decides when, how and what! The only duty of ours is, in the words of H.W Longfellow in his Psalm of life:

“…Act. Act in the living present, Heart within and God overhead…”

– Heart2Heart Team

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Vol 4 Issue 12 - DECEMBER 2006
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