Volume 12 - Issue 11
November 2014
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Posted on: Nov 12, 2014

The smile says it all


Science has made much progress in the last century and it's achievements are immense. But how wonderful it would be if science can help unravel the innermost feelings of inanimate objects? If it can aide us in listening to the stories that, say, walls, roofs and furniture can narrate. If ever we could be blessed with that ability we will hear an endless stream of moving memoirs from such objects, that form the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram. Rooms would tell us stories of breathless children who walked out of them, into a new life of health and vitality. Ceilings would tell us of a number of patients who lay on their bed staring at them hopelessly with tear-filled eyes, and left days later looking up to them as they gratefully remembered their God. Medical equipment would also relate stories of doctors and paramedics who see their Lord in the smile and tears of these patients. Alas for now we have to do with this insufficient tool called human language!

The hospital that was inaugurated by Bhagawan on 22 Nov 1991 has been a difference between life and death to thousands of men and women, children and breadwinners! As of Oct 2014, 1,66,754 surgeries have been performed and over 2.9 million outpatients have been served by the various departments of this hospital. (This does not include those that have benefitted from the Super Speciality hospital in Bangalore, and the general hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bangalore. Doesn't that speak of the immensity of the service rendered by Bhagawan's medical institutions!) But every time we come across one more story of despair turning into relief it fills us with the same thrill and amazement, and an indescribable feeling of warmth. So we wish to share this joy once again with all of you, this being the month of November when 23 years ago this marvellous institution was set up by Bhagawan.


Amit is all but 14. At an age when most children have hardly any care for the world, learn new things at school, frolic and amass memories for future nostalgia, Amit would love to erase the childhood memories. They are anything but sweet. Taking a single step was an ordeal. His legs would not move without his father or mother supporting him and after great efforts and a few steps he would be breathless.     

That, however, is history. Something that would not bother Amit like a reoccurring nightmare. Now, he sports a sparkling smile. A smile that seems to flutter like a butterfly in the warm spring breeze affecting everybody in its path.  

It is his smile,” said Dr. Vasuki, a senior surgeon  in the department of Orthopaedics of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, when asked about Amit. “And his smile is not only infectious, but also affectionate. Even though he has undergone so much of mental and physical suffering since his childhood, he keeps smiling. It is something that I am sure not only inspires his family, but also us and all the staff of the hospital who have come in contact with him. Probably in our lives we are missing that smile,” he said.

Amit was brought to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, this year for the treatment of a heart disease known as PDA, at the same time he was suffering from an orthopaedic problem of bilateral clubfoot. Amit, therefore, first underwent surgery for PDA and later surgeries for the correction of club foot in both his legs. Now his feet confidently on the ground Amit stands tall and firm and smiles.

The Samanta family of Nayaput, West Bengal was elated when their first child Amit was born, their happiness, however, was short lived. The child had clubfeet. Adding to the tragedy, Amit was stricken by meningitis. “Often he would have fits and fever and would be bedridden for days. Amit’s father Tarun Kumar Samanta  and his mother Nivedita, were frightened with Amit’s ordeal, they had no clue what was happening. Amit’s grandfather knew a doctor and asked Tarun and Nivedita to take Amit to him. The doctor performed the tests and then diagnosed the ailment as meningitis and told Tarun to take the boy to Kolkata which was the nearest place where he could be treated.

We went to a child specialist in Kolkata. Initially the doctor said that the boy did not have enough blood. And two bottles of blood were given to him. The doctor afterwards checked him and said that he had a heart problem also and we were directed to a heart centre in Kolkata. In the heart hospital the doctors performed a check-up and told us that there was a problem with his heart and they would have to perform a surgery on this 2 month old infant. They, however, said that the surgery would cost around Rs. 75,000 and was a risky one. Later they told us that they will not take up the surgery as it was too risky.” Tarun said.  

For the treatment of meningitis we came back to the previous hospital and they prescribed some medicines and told us to administer the medicines continuously to our child. After the medicines were given continuously the fits reduced and boy got better,” Tarun said. However, just a few months later, the effects of meningitis on Amit became apparent. His hearing reduced drastically. For a family already reeling under the sad news of their child’s heart problem, this event came as a shock.

For treatment of Amit’s clubfeet, we went to Kolkata to an orthopaedics doctor he said that the bend in the feet can be corrected through a surgery only and for that you have to admit your child in the hospital for some days. When he then glanced through the reports he realised that Amit had a heart problem also. He then suggested that the child need first undergo the heart surgery and then the surgery to correct the feet. He told us it will be expensive,”  Tarun said.

Ours  is a big joint family, we depend solely on the income from farming which is just about enough to fulfil the basic needs of the family, with our limited resources we could not afford even one of the surgeries. So we just kept giving him the medicines,” Amit’s mother Nivedita added.

As a result of Amit’s reduced hearing capacity, he could not talk properly either. So Amit’s parents were forced to put him in the deaf and mute school.  

The head master of Amit’s school after looking at his condition, told his parents that he must get operated and tried to arrange for the finances through a friend he knew in the local club. In the meantime, Tarun met a friend of his who told him about  the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, where even complex heart surgeries were being done free of charge to all the patients.

At first I could not believe what I was hearing, I thought there might be some hidden charges, but my friend convinced me that the hospital charged no money whatsoever. I was also apprehensive about visiting  such a distant place with my family. But the people in the club said that they will send a person with us as a guide who would help me with finding the hospital.

The head master gave us some money and with his help we came to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram. When we came for the first time to the hospital, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had visited the hospital for a conference, and we felt immensely blessed. We felt that Bhagawan has come to bless us,” Tarun said. 

According to Dr. Neelam Desai, the Head of Department of CTVS, at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram. This child was born with a congenital problem which is called Patent Ductus Arteriosis.

Of all the lesions there are very few which if treated can be completely cured for the patient. That means his life will completely change. When he came to us but his life style was affected due to the ailment, he would get respiratory tract infections, for which he may be required to be hospitalised, he would get pneumonia. In PDA, to put it in lay man terms, there is a connection between two large blood vessels carrying pure and impure blood near the heart, the patient will get breathlessness, not be able to walk fast or run etc. His normal activity therefore will be curtailed, Dr. Neelam said.

Our son was admitted in the cardiac ward and the surgery was soon performed. It was the first time anyone in my family was getting operated and in this case it was our young son, so we were extremely scared,” Amit’s mother Nivedita said. “I could not sleep or eat anything for around 3 days, she said. I was tense for the three days when my son was in the ICU. But finally everything went on well. We whole heartedly thank Swami for that,” she added.  

For a cardiac surgeon PDA is not a big lesion, but for the patient it makes all the difference. If you cure the lesion, that is ligate the lesion, as we call it, the person is completely cured. During our rounds we also found out that the patient also had a congenital club foot, which is being treated by our orthopaedic department, which is doing a great work. So we referred the patient to our hospital’s orthopaedic department.

After the heart surgery, Amit along with his parents went to meet Dr. Kailash Rao and Dr. Vasuki of the orthopaedic department. They made Amit undergo several tests and later informed the parents that they should see them again when they would return for the review to the CTVS department. Dr. Rao said that for the treatment to be complete for both legs it would take around 7 months. We returned home after the surgery for the heart. In the three months after surgery, many of the symptoms like breathlessness and sensitivity to cold disappeared.

We returned after three months for follow up and then the heart doctors told us that there was no longer any problem with the heart and asked us to come back for a review after 10 years. We then visited the Orthopaedics department. The doctors performed four surgeries on the two legs of Amit and we had to stay back for around six months here in Puttaparthi itself.

After the surgeries, we were asked to undergo physiotherapy, and then my son began to walk normally, Tarun said.  

We were all so happy that our son had become all right. After we went back home, Amit walked around the whole village to tell everybody that he had become alright. Now he is able to play games and his joy radiates from his face as you can yourself see, Tarun said. “And curiously enough, after the heart surgery he has been able to speak a little,” he added.

Once in the department of Orthopaedics, Tarun met Dr. Kailash Rao and Dr. Vasuki. According to Dr. Vasuki it was a difficult surgery as Amit had congenital heart disease. “What we see may be a deformity in the limb but in such cases there are some other defects, which make the surgery more complicated,” he said.

The second reason why the surgery was complex was because of the deformity itself. “Such deformities are simply correctable when they are born by bringing the feet to the alignment. But as the child grows the growth potential comes down. So this child was lagging behind by almost 10 years as compared to his peers. He had already lived with this deformity for 10 years.”

In such cases when we do an open surgery, we cut the bone to align or release the tissue, it is very difficult for the child to tolerate, but his willingness to participate in the surgery was the highpoint of the whole treatment. In this case you have a child who is walking on his feet in a matter of a few months, who had otherwise never walked properly in his entire life. It is not the surgeon who succeeds but the patient commitment, which succeeds. So if the patient does not have the commitment then whatever the surgeon does is a waste.

Probably I would say this is an outstanding example of team effort in this hospital.  And this boy got everything right and he smiles all the way. His smile is whole hearted. And you cannot stop smiling back at him. This is probably the smile of God, the surgeon said.

- Radio Sai Team

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