Volume 9 - Issue 09
September 2011
Other Articles

Posted on: Sept 21, 2011


From a Blue-Baby to a Boy in the Pink of Health

Every child is the apple of his parents’ eye. They want only the best for him. But what happens when a young infant is diagnosed with a terrible medical condition? There is shock, fear, grief, anguish and despair for the parents. Also a feeling of helplessness. But there is also hope... in the form of healing hands as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Baba’s doctors at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Medical Sciences come to the rescue.

This is the story of young Ravinder who was diagnosed with a heart condition... here’s how the ‘blue’ baby beat the blues and went home with a spring in his step, bringing joy to his parents’ hearts.


Uncontrollable Coughing Fits and a Terrifying Diagnosis

The birth of Ravinder, youngest of four children, brought Shyam Rao and his wife, Revathi Bai, immense happiness. Their joy doubled when Shyam, a daily wage worker at the Food Corporation of India godown in Betul, Madhya Pradesh also got ownership of the land where he had put up his humble dwelling. Both husband and wife thought that it was time for thanksgiving and decided to organise a Satyanarayana Puja at home.

ravinder healing touch  
Shyam Rao (down, left) in the godown where he works in Betul, Madhya Pradesh  

The small home was decked up modestly and the ceremony began. As it drew to a close, two-month-old Ravinder started coughing uncontrollably. His parents thought that it was due to the smoke from the incense sticks. But this coughing never stopped. Alarmed, they took Ravinder to a doctor nearby.

After preliminary tests, the infant was diagnosed as suffering from a cardiac disorder. Shyam Rao was advised to take his son to a bigger hospital as the ones in Betul were not equipped to treat Ravinder’s condition.

Shyam Rao recollects: “We rushed Ravinder to the government hospital in Nagpur where my little infant was made to undergo a number of tests. Since some of them were not available at the hospital, we had to go to a private laboratory as well. The doctors scanned the reports and told me that there was something terribly wrong with my son’s heart. I could not understand the medical terms, but they explained there was a hole in the heart, and one of the valves was narrowed and therefore, the blood was not being purified properly.”

The diagnosis came as a shock. “My child was hardly a year old and it was difficult to even imagine that there was something wrong with him,” he said. He was also in for another shock. “The doctors told me that the surgery would cost around Rs. 2.8 lakhs. And since it was a complex one, we would have to take Ravinder to Chennai for treatment, and that too only when he became much older.”

Continued Suffering and a Feeling of Helplessness for the Parents

The anguished father wondered where he could find the money to save the child. “I work on daily wages and have a family of five to feed. On a good day, I might earn something from 80 to 100 rupees. I was at my wits’ end trying to figure out how I could come up with the money for my son’s treatment,” recollects Shyam Rao.

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  Ravinder and Shyam Rao in SSSIHMS, June 2011

The doctors at the Nagpur hospital gave Ravinder some medicines and a cough syrup and told Shyam Rao to make sure that he did not suffer from cough as it would cause further complications.

Shyam Rao returned home distraught. In between, on a friend’s advice he took Ravinder to a hospital in Tumkur (Karnataka) for a second opinion. The diagnosis was the same, and he returned to Betul dejected. A visit to any advanced centre even for consultation would end up costing Shyam Rao a minimum of Rs. 6000.

The visits to hospitals put a drain on the family’s finances. “I depended heavily on the support of our friends.” Shyam Rao’s colleagues would collect the money and give it to him for Ravinder’s treatment. This was a kind of an interest free loan which Shyam Rao was expected to return once he earned enough. The debt mounted to almost Rs. 22,000 for Shyam Rao.

During this time, Ravinder’s condition became so weak that he was not able to go to school most of the time, and would always be vulnerable to diseases. Everyday brought with it its own set of problems. “As he grew older, especially during summer, he found it difficult to perform even ordinary chores. At times, he would suddenly faint and we would have to rush him to a local hospital. The doctors would put him on oxygen, he would stay for a couple of days and then come back home,” says Shyam Rao.

A Ray of Hope and an Optimistic Way Forward

But as they say, “While there’s life, there’s hope!” One of Shyam Rao’s friends told him about the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, set up by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

“One of our friends, Sahuji was a devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and he used to visit Puttaparthi at regular intervals along with some other devotees for seva. On one of these occasions, he asked us to accompany him. He said that we could get Ravinder checked up at Baba’s hospital where treatment and complex surgeries are done free of charge.”

It took some time for Shyam Rao to digest what he had heard. “A completely ‘free’ hospital where even surgeries are performed free of charge? Is it really possible?” he thought. His doubts were dispelled only when he arrived at the hospital along with Sahuji.

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigramm

Shyam Rao visited the SSSIHMS, Prasanthigram, for the first time in February 2002. Both were registered and sent to the Cardiology OPD for a detailed diagnosis. Shyam Rao recollects, “We came and stood in the line in the morning. Ravinder was checked and we were asked to come the next morning. They told us that his treatment had started.”


The doctors also checked the medical reports that Shyam Rao had brought with him and prescribed some tests which Ravinder underwent in the hospital. The tests results confirmed the diagnosis of the hospital in Nagpur.

“They gave us some medicines and told us to come after a year. They said that as Ravinder was not yet fit for surgery, it would take some time.”

We would be called every year for tests and finally were given a date on April 18, 2011. The doctors told us the delay was due to the waiting list of the patients who had registered at the hospital before us.

“We arrived in Puttaparthi on April 17, 2011, and stayed at the ashram. The doctors performed some more tests and then after about two weeks Ravinder was admitted. The surgery was performed on May 3,” said Shyam Rao.



The Complex Heart Surgery and What it Entailed

What was Ravinder’s condition and why was a surgery needed? Dr. Neelam Desai, the Head of the Department of Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Surgery at the SSSIHMS, Prasanthigram explains that Ravinder’s case was a complex one not only in terms of surgery, but also in the terms that the patient needed a lot of blood and blood products post the operation.

“If normally a patient ends up needing two or three units, this patient would end up needing 15 to 20 units of blood and blood products. After consultation with my colleagues from cardiology and others we decided there was no other way to benefit the patient apart from a surgery. So we decided accordingly,” she said.

In layperson terms, Ravinder was a blue baby. “In a blue baby, there is a mix of pure and impure blood. This happens when one side of the heart is not developed at all. Secondly, there was also a big hole between the two chambers of the heart. The blood that is sent to the lungs for oxygenation could not be sent because of some problem in that valve. So effectively, that chamber of the heart that normally sends the blood to the lungs for purification is not well-developed,” the surgeon elaborated.



  Dr. Neelam Desai, grateful to be an instrument of Bhagawan

The surgery in such cases is indeed complex. It involved directing the impure blood returning by large veins, what are called the superior vena cava and inferior vena cava, directly to the lungs bypassing the heart with the use of a conduit. This procedure is known as Fontan procedure. After surgery, Ravinder was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and had an uneventful recovery and was shifted from the ICU to the ward after a few days.

An End to Ravinder’s Ordeal and a New Beginning

“Before surgery, such children can hardly walk or do any other activity, because every time they moved, they would feel breathlessness because of the deoxygenated blood. Their day to day living becomes restricted. But surgery brings an immediate difference. The biggest difference that a patient notices is that his blue nails, blue lips, would turn pink because of the oxygenated blood. The complexion totally changes. Now Ravinder can lead a normal life and is absolutely fine,” added Dr. Neelam.

The Fontan procedure, which Ravinder underwent was a risky procedure. “These patients are more in danger of collecting fluid in their body but fortunately everything has gone so well. The patient was discharged on the seventh day after surgery,” the surgeon said.


Dr. Neelam is of the firm belief that patients who visit the hospital are taken care of by Bhagawan Baba himself. “Compared to any other hospital we find the infection, morbidity and mortality rates here are much lower. We feel that it is the grace of Bhagawan that makes our patients recover faster. And it’s nice to see somebody who is so sick like Ravinder to recover and go back home to lead a normal life. The other most important thing is patients don’t have to pay for treatment and surgery; that itself, I think, takes away half the burden from their minds and they recover much faster,” she added.

Ravinder back home after his surgery, healthy and hearty  

What does the boy want to be when he grows up? “I want to become a policeman and serve the country," he says.

This sense of service has already been exemplified by his father Shyam Rao who even though struggles to make ends meet, never loses an opportunity to offer his services as a masseur to the old men in his community. “I want to do more of this now; I want to serve the sick and the needy especially the elderly who have no one to take care of them,” he said.

Today as young Ravinder dreams of a bright future and his father Shyam Rao dedicates a part of his life to the service of humanity, one cannot but bow to Bhagawan Baba’s all-pervading Love and compassion that brings relief to those in despair. His Temples of Healing continue to provide hope and relief to thousands with the finest possible medical care. It’s not just a healing of the bodies, but also of the hearts and minds!





Ravinder is one of the thousands who have received a new lease of life in one of Bhagawan Baba’s temples of healing. Constructed in a record time of a year, SSSIHMS, Prasanthigram began functioning in 1991. The hospital is one of the two super-speciality hospitals started by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a part of His mission to provide highly specialised health care to the needy.

The second super-speciality hospital started work in 2001, and is located on the outskirts of Bangalore at Whitefield. The best of medical care is provided absolutely free of cost to all the patients who visit the hospitals. Apart from cardiology and cardio thoracic surgery, SSSIHMS, Prasanthigram also has specialities of ophthalmology, urology, orthopaedics, plastic surgery and gastroenterology endoscopy. On the other hand, SSSIHMS, Whitefield has cardiology and neurology departments.

As on July 31, 2011, Baba's Super Specialty Hospital in Prasanthigram, has seen over two million outpatients since its inception and 116,517 surgeries have been performed in various departments. It goes without saying that all this has been provided completely free of charge to all the patients irrespective of caste, class, creed, colour, race, religion or nationality.

 - Radio Sai team
in association with SSSIHMS.

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