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Dancing To Life’s New Tune

By Mr. Y Arvind

Enabling and empowering, the Sai Healthcare system delivers hope and relief to millions who would never have otherwise had the confidence to dream of access to state-of-the-art medical treatment in an environment of love and compassion, absolutely free of cost. This is an account of a bouncy kid with a hard-to-forget joyful grin, who came to Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Hospital in Whitefield with lots of hope for a new life when society had turned its back on his family and ruined his precious childhood. How did his world turn around - read this fascinating account.

The Unforgettable Grin

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Venkatesh - full of
vibrant dreams

Those of us who have read Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland will be familiar with the phrase, 'grinning like a Cheshire cat'; particularly the conversation when the cat disappears and only the grin remains. Lewis Carroll authored another equally hilarious book, Through the Looking Glass - all this humour from a man who was also a very serious mathematician.

But the grin? Yes, the grin. Coming back to the grin, it was something similar to that of the cat, except the grin had a young boy's face attached to it. The grin belonged to a sprightly young lad I had met in the hospital that day. I recollected his words, "I want to dance. I want to learn dancing, and become a professional dance choreographer for movies." A grand ambition indeed for a child who had undergone cardiac surgery; but then, when have physical limitations deterred determined minds from achieving their goals?

The son of Srinivas and Shanta, Venkatesh was studying the 6th grade at the Akshara Sri Vidya Public School located in Peenya Second Stage, Bangalore. His mother was part of the administrative staff in the same school. He has a younger brother by name Raviteja also studying in the same school.

Poor Health Robs Childhood of Normalcy

The fact that Venkatesh had health concerns became apparent when he was five months old. His parents approached local doctors who prescribed standard remedies but the matter refused to subside. By the age of 10 months, he was unable to hold any food down and would throw up with alarming regularity.

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One of Venkatesh's ailments was multiple Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA)

They finally went to a specialist who, suspecting a cardiac ailment, directed them to Jayadeva Heart Institute. The doctors there reckoned that he had a heart problem, but said he was too young and physically weak to undergo an angiogram. Apparently, the minimum safe weight for a child to undergo an invasive cardiology procedure is 10 kilograms. He was put on specific medical management and the family pulled on. They finally got the angiogram done in the year 2002. The diagnosis was that he had not one, but two complications!

I opened the patient file and checked – the boy suffered from a condition called PDA Patent Ductus Arteriosus, which meant that there was an abnormal connection between the aorta and the Pulmonary artery because of which his pure and impure blood were getting mixed. This opening also affected his lungs since the pressure with which the heart was pumping blood was pushing the blood back to the lungs.

The second complication was multiple Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA), which is a condition wherein the aorta that supplies pure blood from the heart to the rest of the body gets narrowed in more than one place, and consequently the blood supply to the peripheries of the body is reduced. This narrowing puts more pressure on the heart since the heart will have to beat against its own outflow…not a pretty situation to be in. If left unchecked, both these conditions can rapidly damage both the lungs and heart and…all of us know what happens when the heart stops beating.

Dread of Exorbitant Medical Expenses

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Being poor, Venkatesh had little options open to him for treatment, were it not for SSSIHMS, Whitefield

The mother narrates the trauma the family faced when "we were informed that the procedures will cost us Rs. 27,000 (or about US $700) initially with an extra expenditure on tests and medicines of Rs. 8000 (or US $200). We could not afford such a large sum with our meager income. My husband is a granite fitter by profession and his job is not regular."

"Not regular?" I asked

"You see, he gets work only when granite is involved, and that means he has to go to construction sites where his expertise will be useful. And he cannot go directly; he has to go through a contractor… so his work is not continuous. He is able to earn around Rs. 3000 per month. We manage because the school where I work is close by. Our expenses are not much."

"How did you come here?" I asked, trying to changing track.

"We lived for a while in Basaveswar Nagar and had a neighbour by name Lalitamma – she had been a patient in this hospital. She came back after surgery and told us about this place - how the medical care was totally free of charge and it was better than most other hospitals. So I took leave from my school duties and came over here with my boy. After the doctors saw him, they asked me if we wanted to go ahead with the surgery since surgery generally was the last resort. They also told me that surgery at such a young age will have lasting impact."

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Surgery went off without a hitch

Shanta shrugged her shoulders when she explained the inevitability of her choice, "My son was getting worse and surgery was the only solution. We agreed and he was admitted shortly afterwards. The surgery went off well and there were no complications. I was so frightened when I first heard of the diagnosis, but now I am not at all afraid. This hospital, the doctors, the sisters, they are all so nice. This place is really a temple."

Now that she was more relaxed, I quizzed her further. “But what about the other expenses?"

"That I am able to manage", she smiled and continued, "For example, the food in the hospital canteen is good. And it costs only 10 to 12 rupees. Same thing in Majestic (Bangalore's Central Bus and Railway Station) costs 25 rupees and there we get very less in quantity. Also, I don't travel much. I stay in the attendee complex in the hospital. It costs Rs. 100 for two people to travel all the way to my place and I am able to avoid that expense by staying here."

"In-Patient attendee complex, The Salarpuria block?" I clarified, and received a nod of assent.

Dreams of Dancing

I turned my attention to the young aspirant who had not stopped displaying his sparkling teeth, "What do you want to become in your life?"

"Dancer!" came the prompt reply. I smiled at the uncommon reply and the grin grew wider. I was used to hearing, ‘doctor’, ‘engineer’, ‘lawyer’, and the most common answer given by the parents or relatives, '… he will become what God wants him to be…' Dancing was something of a hobby….

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"I want to learn dance, and become a professional dance choreographer for films." - Venkatesh

"Dancer?" I repeated.

"Professional dance choreographer," he explained. "I want to learn dance, and become a professional dance choreographer for films." My eyebrows arched at the boy's earnestness.

"Prabhu Deva?" I queried referring to the famous South Indian dance icon.

"Yes! Yes!" the boy became animated. "I want to dance like him. I am already taking dancing lessons."

I turned to his mother, "Where do you send him?"

"There is a dance school in Chandra layout and also in Girinagar." She looked proudly at her son. "He wants to progress gradually, first learn dance, then become a dance master, then dance director and then professional dance choreographer."

"Does his father approve?" I asked.

"Oh yes! He does not have any problem." She put an arm round her son's shoulder and said, "Many of his friends also are learning dance."

I asked her the question that I always reserve for the end of my conversations. "How do you feel now that your son has received a new lease of life?"

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Grateful Venkatesh and his mother

"This is indeed a new life for my child. Really, I am full of gratitude to Sai Baba. I am lucky to get this chance. I will tell many people about this hospital but to avail this chance is their destiny."

I left the ward with the words 'the chance is their destiny' ringing in my ears. Even as I type, my fingers move on their own accord. The words originating in my mind, the brain processing it and moving the right fingers to the right keys…how many of us realise that what we take for granted as common reflex is denied to the less fortunate among us. Yes! Training can make a person perform tasks better and more efficiently. But the body and mind must both be willing.

Without a seed, there can be no tree. Pleasure is an interval between two pains. It follows that pain is an interval between two pleasures. Gold lies hidden in the bosom of earth, a pleasure to be in the embrace of the womb. In the hands of men it is precious, and so is 'purified' - beaten, twisted, carved to become more precious…Pain. But when finally it finds place adoring the brow of The King…Pleasure!

Let us count our blessings and use adversity to steel ourselves. For how will we know the pleasure of light, when we do not know darkness?

"Much of your pain is self-chosen.

It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you
heals your sick self.

Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquility;

For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided
by the tender hand of the Unseen,

And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips,
has been fashioned of the clay which the potter
has moistened with His own sacred tears."

- Khalil Gibran


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Vol 6 Issue 07 - JULY 2008
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