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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Service Activities

 

SRI SATHYA SAI INSTITUTE OF HIGHER MEDICAL SCIENCES, WHITEFIELD

 

The Very Beginning… Nagaratna Rediscovers Life

The beaming smile on the face of Nagaratna said it all…a smile that conveyed an explicable joy, immense gratitude and wonder – all at the same time. “Can all this be really true… am I dreaming?” Nagaratna, the first surgery patient of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, kept wondering after she was discharged from the Hospital with the hole in her heart fixed.

18-year old Nagaratna never had imagined that somebody would be interested in improving her condition looking at her father’s purse, or the lack of it. Her father, a typical poor Indian farmer, battered by erratic seasons and beaten by poverty from Sipili village of Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, never ever contemplated taking his daughter to a super specialty Hospital, forget getting her treated. When someone told him of Baba’s Hospital, he too, like many, never believed about the free treatment part, until… when he came face to face with the huge mansion that was the Hospital, stepped inside and experienced that the hearts of the people serving inside were equally large.

He immediately felt at ease when he and his daughter were greeted with smiles by everybody from the registration clerk to the doctor. On the day of her surgery, the nurses, the technical officers, the doctors…all seemed so interested in her, “It was a like a family affair, I never felt I was alone… everybody was with me, concerned about me,” says Nagaratna now recalling her days in the Hospital. Her father lost all anxieties when he saw his daughter going to the operation theatre smiling and later the Hospital staff reassuring him, “Do not worry…She is going to be alright...it’s only a matter of few hours...Baba will take care.”

 
The First Surgery of SSSIHMS, WF in Progress...
 
The First Patient in Smiles After the Operation as Baba Looks at Her...

Looking at her cheery face nobody would have said that she had undergone a heart operation just a few hours ago, the nurses attending on her say. Her joy was doubled when Bhagawan Baba Himself visited the ICU just the next day of her surgery and as He gently moved, cast a kind loving glace on her and then raised His hands in blessing! Nagaratna was never the same again.

You could see an all new Nagaratna on the day of her discharge - the spring in her step, the smile on her lips and the confidence on her face to now face life boldly and bravely – it was as if she got a great blessing unexpected! She was now going to study with renewed vigour.

The Magnificent Mansion of Hope

A casual look at the corridors and corners of the Hospital on any typical day will show you so many such Nagaratnas, whose existence society barely acknowledges, let alone comes to their aid, who have stepped into this magnificent mansion of hope and received help, health and more importantly, confidence.

Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield, Bangalore

Raju Das, the son of a factory worker from the state of West Bengal and currently an under graduate student, who had lost vision in both his eyes because of a brain tumour, having regained his vision, now says he will continue his graduation and will someday do a Ph.D!

When 20 days old Afsath was diagnosed with a hole in her heart, her father, a street hawker, and mother, a servant maid, did not know where to turn to for support. They were simply devastated! It was as if someone had slapped a capital punishment on them for eternity…they knew they could never garner the astronomical amount their kid’s surgery demands. Years rolled by and they had accepted their fate until one day… when they met one of Baba's devotees. He told them about Baba’s Hospital in Whitefield. They did not have enough money even to travel to Whitefield! They bought the tickets with borrowed money! Today, Afsath in the pink of her health and with a benign smile on her face, says, “I want to become a doctor!” Isn’t it stirring?

“It’s a Magnificent Palace-Cum-Temple” – Sri A B Vajpayee, Former Prime Minister of India.

There is no dearth of such heart-touching stories in this ‘heaven of health’ for the poor…so many such Nagaratnas, Rajus and Afsaths have come in hundreds and thousands since this Hospital came into existence on the 19th of Jan, 2001. All these beautiful people have left behind tales for all of humanity, each one more soul-stirring than the other. On the inauguration day, five years ago, the then Prime Minister of India, Sri A B Vajpayee had said, “It is no Hospital or hi-tech Hospital, it is a magnificent palace-cum-temple.”

Yes, it is a palace…a ‘palace for the poor’ and a ‘temple of healing’ for all. What makes this Hospital so special? For this, let’s go down the memory lane of time to the very first day of this Hospital and listen to the words of Bhagawan Baba, the divine initiator and the sole inspiration of this wonderful edifice.

Swami with Sri A B Vajpayee to His right during the Inauguration Ceremony of SSSIHMS, WF

Bhagawan Baba had said on the day of the Inauguration,

 


“This (Hospital) is not operating for financial gains. All medicines here will be free. Doctors should understand that it is not medicines alone but God’s grace that cures patients. While this building is imposing from the outside, it will also confer inner bliss. This Hospital has a divine quality that will draw the whole world to it. We should see to it that there are no heart diseases (at least) in Karnataka.

Doctors should win over the minds of the patients by talking to them with compassion and concern, the diseases are half cured when the doctors win over the minds of patients by talking to them with love and consideration. The doctors should administer the injection of courage and encouragement.

Compassion is more important than money. Some doctors wonder how we can treat patients free of charge. You can work wonders with purity of heart. Any work which is started with purity of heart is bound to succeed. Money flows if your work is suffused with love and Sacrifice. People will volunteer with adequate funds to support any noble endeavour.”

The Divine Declaration Unfolding…

And true to Baba’s words, since its inception the Hospital has operated on more than 11,000 patients with various heart, brain and spinal disorders, all absolutely free! In the words of Michael Nobel, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Family Society and great grandnephew of Alfred Nobel, who visited the Hospital on 19th Jan, 2002,

“A truly remarkable achievement! A one of a kind combination of hi-tech, state of the art medical facility offering the top-of-the-line treatment for free to the masses of the people who would never normally have such a chance in life. An awe-inspiring achievement! Thank you (Baba) on behalf of mankind.”

- Michael Nobel

 

A little more than a year ago, Dr. Fazilah Allahdin, Deputy Director, Ministry of Health, Malaysia, visited the Hospital, and before taking leave she wrote this in the visitors’ book,

It has been a privilege to visit this Hospital where there is so much devotion, passion and love. It makes me realise that money is not everything after all. Keep up the good work and continue to serve the people! God bless all of you.”

- Dr. Fazilah Allahdin

 

Devotion, passion and love. Yes, this is the bedrock on which patient care in this Hospital stands!! The treatment of a patient has essentially no relationship with the economic soundness or social background of the patient. His/her religion, country or culture too does not matter.

Sukriti Sharma, an eight-month-old baby girl from Kathmandu, Nepal, underwent a surgery to correct a congenital cardiac defect – totally free in 2003. P N Mishra, a 56-year old man from Nimapara, a village in the state of Orissa, India, had a heart valve replaced without paying a single penny, a few months ago. Jim from Trinidad chose to fly down to the South Indian City of Bangalore for a by-pass surgery instead of heading for the US or London.

COSTS AND PATIENT CARE

What’s Special in Baba’s Hospital?

Why are people from different regions and countries converging in this Hospital? Is it only because it is totally free? Partly, yes. The poor come here because they just cannot afford to go anywhere else. We know how expensive specialized healthcare is! A simple heart procedure anywhere in India will cost between Rs. 50,000 to 1,50,000. Same with closing a hole in the heart, or correcting a valve and many other such operations, while a heart valve replacement will be close to Rs. 2,00,000. If you take the case of Neuro-Surgery which demands very high skills from surgeons dealing with the nerves and tissues inside the brain, surgeries range from Rs. 1,00,000 to 3,00,000. But, Baba’s Hospitals, both in Bangalore and Puttaparthi, are perhaps, the only Hospitals in the world which run without a billing system!

Many wonder, how is it possible? The same question was asked by Felix Wust (Mr. FW), editor of SWISS MED - The Swiss Review for Medicine and Medical Technique - to Dr. A N Safaya (Dr. ANS), Director of the Hospital, in an interview few months ago. Here are Dr. Safaya's words.

 
Dr. Safaya, The Director of SSSIHMS, in conversation with Felix Wust, Editor of SWISSMED
 
SWISSMED 27, (2005) Nr. 1

Mr. FW: When you spoke about the medical disciplines in your hospitals you said you provide the treatment completely free. This is rather astonishing. I may say almost unbelievable – and not everybody’s cup of tea in our Western countries!

Dr. ANS: I expected this question. The free treatment is mainly possible due to donations – small and large donations – made by the devotees of Sathya Sai Baba from all over the world. These donations go into a Trust which is called the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust. This Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust has a certain amount of money placed in the banks as its corpus fund that supports the day-to-day activities of both our hospitals. The two hospitals require about 2 crores of Rupees every month. Of course, a rigid cost control, cost engineering and continuous innovation help us cut the costs. In addition to these donations, some people make contributions (in kind) for a particular purpose.


MR. FW:
And you do not take any direct action in acquiring such donations?

Dr. ANS:
No, we don’t, they just come. You need a Sathya Sai Baba to be in the centre of this picture. Without him, all this would probably not have been possible."

But the completely free treatment aspect is only, as previously mentioned, part of the story. The most important other half is the quality of care – technologically and otherwise offered at the Hospital.

INSPIRED STAFF AND PATIENT CARE

It’s Not Just Free, It’s of High Quality!

Mr. Lalitbhai Vadilal Parekh, from Pune, India who underwent a heart operation in the Hospital a few months ago, says,

“After seeing all the facilities available there, I felt as if I was in a 5 star hotel and not a Hospital. What a beautiful and imposing building it is! It is equally clean, well ventilated and comfortable.The volunteers, doctors and nurses greet you with an “Om Sri Sai Ram” in a polite manner and are always ready at your service. It feels like one has come into a temple.”

Two years ago, when Lalitbhai developed chest pain, he underwent angiography (a diagnostic test) in a local Hospital paying Rs. 20,000 and he was told he would need a bypass surgery. His condition worsened with time and he would become breathless while walking. When he did another test in 2003, he drowned in distress because the local doctors told him to get the surgery done in a matter of 8 days! Approximate cost of surgery – Rs. 2,00,000!!

Knowing fully well he could never afford the treatment, Lalitbhai tried other alternative medicine such as homeopathy, but all in vain. It was at this time that he learnt about Baba’s Hospital. Successfully operated upon and now immensely glad and grateful, Lalitbhai, wrote in “Jain Jagruthi” (July 2004 Issue), a Marathi magazine from Pune,

In this Hospital patients are looked after just like guests. There is a spirit of service to mankind in each one of the staff members. They do their service in a most selfless and devoted manner. Honestly, I felt and saw God in each one of them in this ‘Kaliyug’….All treatments are absolutely free! Each patient who goes there is given friendly and polite service by the staff that is always so courteous.”

 

Recalling the kind attention given by doctors, he further adds, “After a 45 minute angioplasty…I was discharged within a day. The doctors advised me about the course of action to be taken in future, the care, diet and exercise and also about keeping a philosophical attitude in life as that leads to one’s progress. It was as if, I had been reborn again.”

Tremendous Commitment – Be it Doctors or Nurses

Truly, it is the dedication and passion with which the doctors and nurses work, that distinguishes this Hospital. For example, when Joseph (name changed) was operated upon for a complex Neuro Surgical procedure called "Aneurysm clipping", the Neuro Surgeon was in the Operation Theatre for – hold your breath - 20 hours! He did not come out for a sip of coffee or even water! And the amazing part is that when the surgery was finally over, the surgeon chose to go to the wards and do his regular rounds seeing the progress of the post operative patients and giving instructions to the nurses. Only after he had done this to his satisfaction, did he go to have some food and catch some sleep! Any Hospital with doctors like this would do wonders, wouldn't it?

 
A Cardiac Surgery in progress...
 
Neuro Surgeons at work...

It is not only the doctors; the nurses and all the other support staff are equally an enthused lot. The mission and inspiration of Baba rubs on all of them. There are so many instances when the nurses have given money from their own purse for the patient to return home because they are so poor! There are patients who come to the Hospital selling their land and property just to pay for the travel expense and all the staff in the Hospital are very sensitive to their problems. When the barber who was meant to shave the head of a patient meant for neuro surgery could not make it in time, one nurse did not hesitate to don the barber’s role! Nothing is inferior or mean when it comes to patient’s welfare.

Nobody asks the nurses to get comics for kids or walkmans for youngsters in the ward. They just do it. In fact, when one patient wanted petroleum jelly for her skin, a nurse did not hesitate giving her own cold cream! There are hundreds of daily incidents like this…all small but the impact on the patient is never small. They feel the Hospital is another home.

In fact, there are many patients - Abduls and Anands – who have shed tears during their discharge. For, dieticians in which other Hospital will come three times a day and ask you if the food is ok, if you wanted any change in your menu and explain to you why you have to take a particular diet - and that too, all free!

Where else will you find volunteers eager to help in every activity inside the Hospital including taking you to the bathroom, even if it is in the middle of night! No wonder, for poor patients, it is nothing less than a paradise. 

“It’s Alladin’s Magic Lamp for the Poor” – Lalitbhai, a Former Patient

Lalitbhai, the former patient, continues to say, “For receiving all the care, I did not have to shell out a single penny. Along with this, I also got a ‘Rate Concession Form for Heart Patient’ as a result of which my railway fare was only one-fourth. Thus, I was benefited greatly by this form, I doubt if there is any other organization that does so much.”

Before he ended his article, Mr. Lalitbhai clearly spelt out why he had written those words saying,

The organization and management of such an institute is truly an example for the world to follow. This is truly a god sent boon for the needy … it is a magic lamp – Alladin’s magic map - for people suffering from heart and brain diseases in this age and I myself have experienced this, an experience that changed my life.

I feel that everyone should benefit from such selfless work. This is the reason behind writing this article.”

 

Kids Can Play In The Wards Too!

A playground for kids in the ward designed and maintained by the nurses.

It is this familial care which has changed so many lives and which continuously draws people from far and beyond to this Hospital. The Hospital makes no publicity on its own. The good word spreads. In fact, a Nepal Newspaper “The Rising” carried an article “Sathya Sai Institute – In the Service of Mankind” mentioning how so many Nepalese have been touched by the loving care delivered in the Hospital.
 
South African newspaper "The Citizen" (left) and Nepalese Newspaper "The Rising" carry good news about Baba's Hospital

Similarly, a South African paper, “The Citizen” reported six months after the inauguration of the Hospital in 2001, “While South Africa struggles with a public health service which is turning into a nightmare – cruelly selfish nurses, thieving doctors and hospitals which breed infection….a medical miracle is taking place in India which should serve as an inspiration and an example to us….They demonstrate that simultaneous compassion and efficiency in healthcare is not a pipedream.”

“Patient is a Full Human Being, Not a Disease’ – Dr. Sreedhar

This Hospital is truly a dream turned into reality. It is what men of great character and concern for people like Gandhiji and Swami Vivekananda had envisaged for India. A structure which not only heals the body, but also quietens the mind and energizes the soul.

 

The unique aspect of this Hospital is that, in all departments, patients are treated as a full human being rather than as a disease. The philosophy of ‘love all serve all’ rubs on all who work in the Hospital and every member of the staff tries to help the patients in their own way starting from guiding them to the right place in the Hospital till helping them to find an accommodation for their over night stay, giving priority to out-station poor patients. Nothing but Swami’s blessings enable us in doing this pious task with such contagious zeal,” says Dr. Sreedhar, the Chief Radiologist of the Hospital.

Bhagirath from New Delhi who had her only daughter’s valve replaced here a few months back says, “The treatment here is not only for the body but also for the mind.” This happens because of a number of salient features of the Hospital starting with technologically high quality patient care to the dedicated team of doctors and volunteers to the sublime spiritual ambience of the Hospital.


SOPHISTICATED TECHNOLOGY AND PATIENT CARE

Often ill-informed people jump to conclusions that as the treatment given is totally free (the patient is not asked money for anything even for food), the treatment in this Hospital must be substandard. The fact is though that the Hospital is counted among the best in Bangalore, the “Silicon Valley” of India and it has many firsts to its credit as far as patient care and medical infrastructure is concerned. Baba often says, “Since it is free, it should be the best.” And best it is, no doubt, equipped with the most modern medical equipment available in the field of Cardiology and Neuro Sciences. Just to give a few instances -

  • The Stealth Neuro Navigation System (for image guided surgery), the latest technology in precision neuro surgery which borrows its concept from the Global Positioning System technology used to map geographical dimensions using satellites, arrived at the Hospital just a few months after its inauguration and is being used by the Neuro Surgery team of the Hospital.

    Many would not know that the Hospital is the first in Asia and second in the world to have such a sophisticated facility. This facility makes the surgery safe, especially in cases where the tumour is close to the speech or other critical areas of the brain. “This makes the procedure less invasive and the skull won’t be cut beyond what is required,” says, Dr. A S Hegde, the Head of Neuro Surgery Department of the Hospital.
  • Similarly, the Neuro-interventional catheterization lab (or in short Neuro Cath Lab), with its biplane feature, allows for imaging in two planes simultaneously and ensures that the contrast dose to the patient is kept to a minimum. Only a few select Hospitals in India have this.
 
  • Coming to Radiology, the 1.5 Tesla GE Signa Horizon Lxi MRI system used for MRI scans is at the forefront of medical imaging technology and is one of the few available in India. This helps in efficient diagnosis and faster cure as it is a crucial aid in diagnostic radiology and allows high resolution images with a shorter exam time.
 
The GE Signa 1.5 tesla machine: One of the few in India
 
Volume Zoom Multidetector Multislice CAT scanner
  • Again, the CT scanner which is a Volume Zoom Multidetector Multislice CAT scanner represents a new generation in Computerized Tomography (CT) technology and is the first such installation in South India. Its amazing speed and resolution allow for highly accurate imaging, particularly of vascular structures, and the cardiology department has performed some very high quality CT angiograms (visualization of blood vessels). Likewise, the dual-headed SPECT Gamma camera present in the Hospital is the latest technology in the field of Nuclear Medicine, which is equipped to detect functional abnormalities in heart and in the brain non-invasively.
 
  • Moving on to the Laboratory, the Biochemistry department has a Beckman Coulter cx9 ALX clinical system which can perform the tasks of 7 to 8 testing machines and can analyze 900 bio-chemical tests per hour! This speed enables doctors can diagnose the patients better and quicker.

     
  • Similarly, the blood bank of the Hospital operates a Blood Componenting system which separates the various components of blood like plasma, platelets and red cells under sterile conditions and then stores them at specific temperatures for use during operations - a practice performed only in premier Hospitals.
Beckman Coulter cx9 ALX - 900 lab tests per hour!
  • Only those components that are of therapeutic value to the patient are transfused. As a result of this the blood bank makes optimum utilization of the blood donated. For example, in the period of 10 months (Jan-Oct 2003) the blood bank collected 3,141 units of blood but they were able to prepare many more components, namely 4,714. One will be surprised to know that this blood bank receives 98% of its stock through donations which perhaps happens in no other hospital in Bangalore, or maybe even in India.
  • Again, the Column Agglutination Technology used in the blood bank for cross matching blood components is the among the latest technology in the field and is used by less than 1% of hospitals - those considered the best in the country.
  • Ably assisting all this sophisticated equipments is a robust IT (Information Technology) system and network. With a 1 Gbps fiber optic cable which networks the entire Hospital and the ancillary buildings, the network has the potential to enable doctors to access the vital signs of the patients even from the their home. There are close to 10 servers and 80 client computers connected to the network.
     
  • The Hospital Management Information System, MEDICOM, comprising of over 60 modules, not only enables easy patient tracking, fast access of the patient information, from anywhere in the Hospital, but also enables some of the medical equipment to ‘talk’ with the computers thereby allowing the doctors to order tests, see results, etc. online.
 

In fact, comparing the IT deployment in the Hospital with other hospitals in Bangalore, the Times of India, India’s largest English daily, said,

"Times of India" praises SSSIHMS, WF's
IT Deployment
 

“According to an independent healthcare consultant firm, 75% of the tech deployment in the city’s healthcare sector is focused on administrative activities, including billing and patient management. There is no emphasis on customer relationship and systems integration…the study found the highest tech deployment in Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.” There are good reasons for this assessment by the consulting firm and here are a few highlights of how the Hospital has effectively embraced IT in delivering better patient care.

  • Unlike conventional procedure where CT and MRI images are printed on films, in this Hospital all the scanned images are electronically transmitted to the doctor’s desktop PC immediately upon completion of the scan by the Radiology department. Not only does this help in speedy and effective diagnosis, it also reduces consumption of films by 90%, which is a huge saving!
     
  • On the same lines, all the blood samples are bar-coded and fed directly into the electronic analysers in the lab. On successful completion of the ordered tests, the analysers feed the results directly into the patient management software which displays the results directly to the requesting doctor/nurse without any human intervention, and more importantly, without any loss of time which is so important.

Similarly, a lot can be said about the indigenously developed sophisticated stores management system which enables all the sub-stores to maintain a very lean inventory and also place their indents to the main store electronically; or, the intuitive software interface designed specially for the doctors which mimic the usual pre-printed forms which doctors are accustomed to; or, the speedy electronic collation of all the information relevant for the discharge summary of the patient and hence a quick discharge report; or even the reliable and effective patient wait-list management (uniquely this Hospital has a waiting list for surgeries because of the enormous number of people it receives everyday).

  • Dr. Nandita Ghosal, In-Charge of Blood Bank, says, “The laboratory has become “paperless” as the results of patient blood profiles and a host of other tests directly go into the patient information system from the automated coulter cell counter and other machines and the information is available for all the doctors to see in any computer all over the Hospital.”

But that is not what Dr. Nandita says is unique to the Hospital, “The sophisticated equipment along with the pleasant ambience here makes blood donations a pleasant experience for the donors.” The Hospital donor statistics (98% by volunteer donors) bear testimony to this fact.

Through word of mouth and with little or no publicity, Sai devotees, students from various colleges and even corporate executives from in and around Bangalore most willingly drop in and offer to contribute their blood. In fact, there are instances when former patients of the Hospital who are very poor have come forward to offer blood saying, “We are very poor…this is the only way we can give something back to this Hospital.” Of course, the blood bank never accepts blood from former patients, but those scenes remain ever fresh in the memory of the staff, inspiring them and giving them a sense of fulfillment.

 
A Blood Bank store

PATIENT TRANSFORMATION ALONG WITH PATIENT TREATMENT

What the Visiting British MPs Said

A little more than a year ago, when eight British Ministers of Parliament (MPs) from the Conservative Party visited the Institute on 28th of September, 2004, the delegation spent close to two hours visiting the Institute.

They went around the outpatient departments, wards, radiology, lab and blood-bank and finally Mr. Peter Luff, Conservative Party MP and the Opposition Whip said to the Press reporters,

 

“This Hospital is a beacon of hope for the economically weaker sections and it is as good as any facility in the UK.”

- Mr. Peter Luff, Conservative Party, MP.

Further, very appreciative of the architecture of the Hospital, they said, this Hospital “changes the lives of those who come here.” Indeed, innumerable are stories of people - be it a patient, a patient-attender or just a visitor – who have left this Hospital recharged with life and energy, and reconnected with the inner recesses of their own being.

 
British MPs With Dr. Safaya, the Director

Lives Changed…Some More Vignettes

Sabeena’s father, who washes dishes in a restaurant for a living, toils hard to provide education to his thirteen-year-old, his only daughter. When she complained of poor health, his agony was unimaginable. Someone told him of Baba’s Hospital, and the rest is history…Sabeena, is now in all smiles after a successful closure of hole in her heart and a Mitral Valve repair. His father’s joy is, in fact, doubled. His only child has got a new life!

There is a unique case in the Hospital records pertaining to three members of a Muslim family—two sisters and one brother—all three suffering from congenital heart disease.

Imagine the plight of the poor father with three out of four children suffering from a malady that can be cured only by medical intervention.

 
Sabeena with her mother...yet another life saved

All three of them had breathing problems and difficulties while walking. The condition was diagnosed to be Patent Ductus Arteriosus, commonly called PDA. Like any disease its progress only foretold a limited quality of life for all the three children. The father was absolutely clueless. He ran from pillar to post to raise funds for his children. He took them to Mangalore, about 80 kms away from his town to consult a Cardiologist. It was at this juncture, that he came to know about Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Bangalore. He brought all his three children to the Hospital in 2001 for check ups and treatment. All these three children were operated upon for PDA and now they are all healthy and happy and of course, very grateful to the Hospital.

 

“I had never even dreamt of leading a normal life,” is all Savitha, aged 40, would say with a choked voice. Savitha could not get married because of her heart ailment and lives with her younger brother’s family while her elder brother is mentally retarded.

The successful operation on her rheumatic heart disease has now opened up for her a host of opportunities and now she is planning her future and looking for a job which will to some extent, at least, better their tragic condition.

"I had never even dreamt..." - Savitha
   

“An Overwhelming Experience!” – Tina Ambani

Tina Ambani, former actress and wife of corporate czar, Anil Ambani, wrote in the visitor’s book on 31st July 2004:

“It has been an overwhelming experience! I am speechless, expressionless. Your devotion to humanity is unreal - till you see it, experience it. May god give this vision to more people.”

 

“I Will Not Hesitate For Even My Family Members To Get Help Here.” – Dr. Lalit Chauhan

 

Dr Lalit Chauhan, Cardiology Consultant from St Louis, Missouri in the USA says,

“My five days here was my first visit to this unique institution. This place combines in the most comprehensive way professional tertiary care, arranging healthcare delivery system and a set of uniquely dedicated individuals working selflessly,” says Dr. Lalit Chauhan, the quality of care here is so good and up to the best institutions that I will not hesitate for even my family members to get help if they happen to be here and need it. May the reality of this place be a role model for the rest of the world.”

Hundreds Transformed Everyday…

Everyday hundreds of such people find new meaning in their lives, sport a smile which they haven’t for years and thank God that this Hospital exists. This Hospital indubitably changes them for ever, for the better. Some begin to live a fuller life while some begin to rethink about the actual purpose of life.

So many lives changed...so many smiles

Ask Ahmed the bus driver who after his operation expressed his desire to help transport patients to the Hospital. Ask Dilip, who refused to go back to his profession as a butcher after his little Sharira Bhanu was operated here. Ask the student who returned again and again to physically assist other patients as they recuperated after surgery. "I know how it feels" was his simple reply.

It is the blend of aesthetic appeal, functional effectiveness, practical efficiency and spiritual sublimity, as the Hospital brochure states, which consciously and subconsciously touches and leaves a mark in the inner recesses of every one who steps into this hallowed Temple of Healing.

Before the British MPs left, they penned down in the visitors’ book: “Thank you for giving us such a fascinating tour of a truly extraordinary Hospital.”

“An Impressive Healthcare Facility” – Ferid Murad, Nobel Laureate

Ferid Murad, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, 1998 from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, USA also had similar feelings to express. After he took a tour of the Hospital and its work, he said on Nov 18th, 2003,

 

“Thank you for the tour of your Hospital and clinics. This is a very beautiful and impressive healthcare facility that promises free medical care. I congratulate the Hospital and Swami for such an important mission.”

- Ferid Murad, Nobel Laureate, 1998.

 

SUBLIME AMBIENCE AND PATIENT CARE

“Healthcare in God’s Service” – Dr. Mitchell Krucoff

Dr. Mitchell W Krucoff, Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology, Duke University Medical Centre and Director, Cardiovascular Laboratories, Durham VA Medical Centre, (both in the US) visited Baba’s Hospital along with his team of professionals and this is what he records,

We literally were bathed in the healing space created through Baba’s loving vision, embedded in every detail from the concrete to the gleaming marble floors, in every person from the staff to the patients and their families. What we saw was the highest level of technology, with some equipment even newer than the equipment we use at Duke Medical centre. But the technology was dwarfed by the context into which everything in the Hospital dwelled – healthcare in God’s service.

 

Among the staff, whether cleaning or cooking or doing open heart surgery, all work was done in God’s service. Among the patients and families, many of whom had never seen a plumbing fixture, much less a digital cardiac catheterization laboratory, there was no fear, no anxiety, no depression as we commonly see on rounds in the USA. As we rounded in…every patient and family member, children and adults, literally beamed at us. They clearly knew that, physically and spiritually, they were in God’s Hospital.”

This extract truly sums up the ambience of the Hospital. It is this ambience which is responsible for the Hospital’s success and which has been ratified by almost everyone who has seen and been in this ‘Temple of Healing’ including visiting doctors and experts.

Conversation Between Dr. Nadana Chandran and Dr. Choudhury V

It is interesting to learn what Dr. Nadana Chandran (Dr. NC), Director of the Neurosurgical Unit, Canberra Hospital, Australia, who spent 2 1/2 weeks in 2005 serving in the Neurosciences Department, said in an interview with Dr. Choudhury V (Dr. VC), another distinguished Cardiac surgeon, from USA.

 
Dr. NC: I walked into the ward the other day after we did some major cases and I was amazed at the state of recovery of the patients; it was far ahead of what I would normally see. This is no exaggeration. This is purely something very striking in this place. People recover that well. I am sure it is all the Grace of Swami.
Dr. Nadana Chandran

Of course there is the human skill of the people who are working here, and dedicating themselves to the work here, but there’s something beyond that, of course.

Dr. VC: The other thing (apart from ‘divine grace’) which impressed me when I used to actively work here, was the fact that the patient does not have to pay any money, everything comes free to him, and when he came in he looked at himself and everybody else in a different way. How do you view that?

Who Says There is “No Free Lunch” – Dr. Choudhury

Dr. NC: I come from an environment where medicine is largely driven by money. And, here you see for the first time somebody who can walk in and have the most highly advanced, technologically sophisticated service available with no worry about any money and I am amazed to see people coming all the way after 3 days’ travel, from Calcutta and other places to get the treatment done.

Dr. VC: Till 2001, I used to practise cardiac surgery in Los Angeles and I used to work for 3 months in Swami’s Hospital. Now the thing that amazed me was technologically, over here, even simple things like blood cardioplegia which is a technological advancement, we would do exactly the same thing in Swami’s Hospital. Our tendency is to normally associate something free to be cheap. That was my impression. When I came here I found that the “No free lunch” concept in totally untrue in this environment.

 

"Toddlers' Only" Zone

In The Out Patient Department

In the recent times, the Hospital has “reengineered” its processes in the Cardiac Out Patient department – Indubitably, the most crowded place in the Hospital everyday mid-morning where on an average at least 220 patients and their attenders, await for various tests, reports or consultation.

For the toddlers, there is a “Toddlers Only” zone where their mothers can nurse them and they can ‘relax’ and play with interactive soft toys (which, incidentally have been sent by Bhagawan Baba Himself recently).

This room has been done up with colourful wall paper, cartoons and stickers, entirely by the staff of the department. It is now a hot-favourite amongst the tiny-tots!

Apart from this, there are audio-visual systems set up in patient waiting areas and various films of Bhagawan, His discourses and proceedings during various festivals in Puttaparthi are being shown. This medium is also used to screen videos on patient-education, counseling, preventive medicine, and so on in regional languages.

Dr. NC: In fact, I must confess that we don’t have some of the equipment in the Theatres here, in many of the Hospitals in Australia. So, it is really amazing to see this degree of technology available for our patients, who have to pay nothing at all. It is really very, very rewarding.

Dr. VC: Ten years ago, I heard from Swami, we should not treat the patient as a disease, but we should treat the mind, body and the soul. And, that to me, is the biggest message I got from Swami from here.

Dr. NC: Yes, and you can feel that when you hear the bhajans and the soothing music that is piped right through. Sometimes Swami’s discourses are heard when you’re operating, which is quite different to the environment where I normally work. Certainly, it is a very spiritually healing place.

Talking about the ambience and experience of working in the Hospital, the common refrain of every doctor who has served or is currently serving is - “This is a totally different place to work. It is very humbling”. Dr. Hegde, a very distinguished Neuro Surgeon of India who heads the Department of Neuro Sciences in the Hospital, says,

“We do what is best for the patient. The economic factors do not influence the patient management decision….there is none of the all-too-common feeling of helplessness that poor patients have when they are unable to afford treatment.


COUNSELING AND PATIENT CARE

Counseling Department: One-of-a-Kind

Once the patients step inside the Hospital, they are reassured and relaxed. They know the Hospital wants nothing from them in return. Providing comfort and confidence and lending a patient ear to all their worries and anxieties is another very unique service wing of the Hospital - the Counseling Department.

This department, if not unique in its concept, is surely intuitively exceptional and one-of-a-kind in its approach and impact. Their fundamental tenets - “Help Ever, Hurt Never” and “Love All Serve All” inspired by Baba.

The counselors of the Hospital provide the non-medical but equally vital emotional support to the patients. Describing their work, a counselor says,

“On admission the patients have different apprehensions as to their stay in the Hospital – at this point we appraise them of the good care available, assuring them of the doctor’s expertise and competence along with free care provided by Bhagawan Baba and they relax instantly.”

Prithvi Pani, who underwent neuro surgery for removal of a tumour, says,

My nine days stay at the SSSIHMS was a divine holiday. In fact I never had the feeling that I was a patient. In a surgery it is fear that haunts you more than the diseases. But here I must admit that from the time of admission the fear had gone and a subtle peace of mind transcended on me. The state of mind has to be experienced to be believed.

Although I have profound faith in God, the moment I entered this divine medical centre, I began to admire Baba for his selfless service to mankind, through his philosophy of “Love All Serve All”. Every person admitted to this Institute, however poor or rich, is taken care of without any discrimination. The medical service is supreme. A missionary zeal can be seen in every individual serving this Institute and this clearly shows the heartiness of this Divine soul, Sri Sathya Sai Baba who infuses such dynamism into every person serving here.”

A Letter From A Patient To The Counseling Department
 

Sairam,

Loving letter from Menaka. I am a 1st Year M.Sc. (Microbiology) student from Kanchipuram. On 4th June 2005, I was admitted to Sathya Sai Hospital at Bangalore. Next day morning I was operated successfully. I am healthy now. Recently I had revisited the Hospital for a follow-up checkup. Doctors informed that there is no problem. I am able to lead a normal life.

Regarding the Hospital: I was well-taken care in the Hospital during my week long stay. The courtesy, love and words that I enjoyed there will not be possible even with money elsewhere. Sevadals conducted themselves gracefully. I did not know any of the people working in the Hospital as I was completely new, still they took care of us nicely. So much of care and love is not possible elsewhere!

Pages would not be enough if I were to write about the doctors. If not for them, will I be writing this letter? I see these doctors as a form of GOD to save the lives of the sick...Doctors were very humble and believed that all of us are equal in the eyes of Baba. Baba has given me a rebirth. It is because of Baba I am alive now!!

This operation would have cost lakhs of rupees elsewhere, but was done completely free at this Hospital. I really doubt if I would have recovered this well even if I were to shell out money.... I would be grateful for the rest of my life, for my very existence is their benevolence. I am serving my locality and also meditating as per your advice. All these make me feel healthy and strong.

Many a thanks for your service!... I will be in touch regularly through letters.

Yours loving,
V. Maneka
25 November, 2005

     

Counseling and Spiritual Healing

The counselors meet all the in-patients individually, either in the counseling room or at their bedsides in the wards. They quickly establish a rapport not only with the patient but also with the immediate family members by informal interaction and by speaking to them in their own language or one familiar to them…. Counseling compliments the modern medicine and surgery process through spiritual healing.

 


Mind is the seat of all emotions and feelings and Baba says, in fact, it is the mind which is the root cause of 98% of all ailments. By generating positive thoughts in the patients, the counselors help in maintaining good health of the patients in the post-operative recovery period.

On the bedside rounds we see some patients going through great pain and suffering with all the care given. They are looking for solace and comfort. A small prayer to the divine here, together with the patient, releases all pain and tensions – result, the patient falls off to sleep. This is a divine painkiller and we have experienced this several times,” say the counselors who work voluntarily in the Hospital in a spirit of selfless service because of their love for Baba.

 

In fact, this pure love for Baba expressing itself as selfless service and the satisfaction derived there from is the biggest motivating factor for everyone associated with the Hospital. It is this ennobling feeling which makes many suppliers of various items needed by the Hospital offer their products free.

The dockyard worker in Bangalore may be used to tobacco, hard work and harder words but when it comes to unloading equipments meant for the Hospital, he takes only half the payment saying, “This is my small contribution to what Baba is doing for humanity!” There are many who choose to remain anonymous and silently contribute their might to the Hospital in whatever way they can, as for them it is only an offering to their lord.

SERVICE BY VOLUNTEERS AND PATIENT CARE

Sai Volunteers – The Spinal Cord of the Hospital

One of the most committed and caring among these group of selfless workers are the Sevadals – dedicated teams of volunteers belonging to various Sathya Sai centres all over from the state of Karnataka, who come for short periods of one week and lend their eager and earnest support in the running and upkeep of the Bangalore Hospital.

If the corridors in the Hospital shine and the walls of the wards and offices look bright, it is because of the Sevadals. If the gates of the Hospital are well-guarded round the clock and there is discipline in the Hospital with the patients being guided to the right service department at every step - again it is because these volunteers never mind hard work.

It is the sevadals who lovingly serve food to every single patient. It is they who wash and iron patients' clothes in the laundry. It is also they who escort and help patients and carry their blood samples to the respective laboratories.

As Dr. Safaya, the Director of the Hospital, says, “They are the Hospital’s in-house mailing system - most robust and trusted.” One cannot imagine the Hospital the way it is without them even for a single day. They add life, vigor and ability to every wing of the Hospital.

 
Sevadals ironing patients' clothes

Can you ever imagine an IAS officer [senior Government official] rubbing shoulders with a school teacher and both scrubbing the floors? Or an Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force doing guard duty at the main gate? Or for that matter, the executive of a company carrying the soiled clothes of a patient to the laundry? It happens in Baba’s Hospital daily.

“Sevadals Change the Quality of Patient Care” – Dr. Geeta Rangan

Expressing how the Sevadals change the quality of patient care, Dr. Geeta Rangan, who worked previously in many government and other private hospitals before joining as the head of the Neurology Department of Baba’s Hospital, says,

 
"Our Bhagawan’s Hospital does away with all the weakness in our different systems of health care. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the Seva Dal take care of the mundane aspects such as reception, guidance of the patients, and even paramedical aspects, without the usual shouting, screaming and exchange of unpleasantries. Instead, there is a quiet atmosphere in which to function, where a troublesome patient can be handed over to a psychological advice group while one concentrates on the next needy individual.”

Testimony of a Sevadal

Quite happily and with enthusiasm, every Seva Dal accepts his position with a smile and works anywhere. Mr. Prakash Chittaranjan, a longtime volunteer, recollecting his first days of service and says,

“The whole Hospital seemed a crystal maze for me at the beginning, not knowing where each lab and other departments were within such a gigantic Hospital complex. But Swami kept telling me from within that He was there to guide me as ever, through his loving Hospital staff (Sisters, Doctors and administrators). I was able to feel the Unity, Purity and Divinity principle that Swami often talks about, which led me to interact well and share my love with the patients and the staff.

Patients from all classes and religions were being treated in this Hospital lovingly and for free. There were smiles all around from the patients and their relatives at the time of discharge, for they were fully charged with Swami's ocean of love.

This was a wonderful gift from Bhagawan to me, whose experience I will ever cherish in my life. As I entered into the last day of Seva, I was beginning to feel heavy hearted for I was about to be rudely woken up from the short and sweet dream. A dream that I wished should never end, deep within my heart. All I wanted to do then was to thank SAI for providing such a wonderful and spiritually enlightening experience and for making me be close to him as part of the overall experience.”

This is the sublime feeling with which the Sevadals give their energy and time to the Hospital. They see Baba in everyone. No Seva Dal member gets tired or complains of hard work. He never aspires for any fruits for his service. He is a silent worker and never projects himself. You can not only see but feel the saying ‘Service to Man is Service to God’ when you see the Sevadals at work.

“Every Doctor, Nurse and Volunteer Behaved as if They Were My Family” – Dr. Pai, Former Patient.

Dr. Y V Pai, a retired IAS officer recalling his hospitalization says,

“The most striking difference between SSSIHMS and other hospitals is the quality of people – doctors, paramedics and volunteers. They are not only skilful practitioners but have a rare quality of affection and cooperation and yet firmness when called for. They all seem to be tiny yet significant fragments of the towering figure – Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

People here make you feel so much at home that I told my family not to send an attendant. Of course, my request was not taken seriously. There was no need for anyone to be with me because every doctor, nurse, ward boy and volunteer behaved as if they were my family.”

 
A patient recovering in ICU


SAI REHABILITATION PROGRAMME AND PATIENT CARE

One very unique facet of patient care in this “Home of a Hospital” is that the volunteers and staff of the Hospital never forget the poor patients even after they are discharged. Like their own family member they are always welcomed and are given privilege and priority for consultation in subsequent visits to the Hospital. But this is not all.

The Hospital was not satisfied with this….they wanted to take their care and concern beyond the walls of the Hospital…to their patient’s town and village! And thus, about 6 months ago was born the “Sai Rehabilitation Programme”.

Now poor Ramaiah need not feel lonely when he returns home after his operation. No more fears and doubts – “What if things do not go right when I am at home? Who will guide me? Sai Baba’s Hospital is so far away. Who will hold my hand now and help me regain my health?”

Under the Sai Rehabilitation Programme, the patient is always under the Hospital's umbrella and will be under the care of Sai volunteers who are present in every corner of India. The programme was planned and launched as a pilot project in Karnataka State on 17th July 2004 by the Hospital which has partnered with the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation (SSSSO) of Karnataka. The programme in Karnataka will be a working model which eventually will be replicated in all the other States of India.

The programme’s importance and appeal grew within days of its implementation, because the majority of the patients, who are illiterate and have poor economic status, need to be educated and motivated to follow a disciplined rehabilitation routine after a major surgery or intervention. This discipline is imperative for the patient to benefit from the free surgery done at the Hospital in the long term. The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation’s wide network of dedicated voluntary men and women has only made this project possible and effective.

How Is The Programme Implemented

“As a first step in this project, an orientation workshop was conducted by the Hospital for more than a hundred district doctors and other support staff hailing from all over Karnataka,” says Mr. Umesh Rao, the Programme Director for the Rehabilitation Programme, “Presentations about the programme content, in depth, were made by the Hospital staff followed by an interactive session. A detailed briefing followed on how the body-mind checkup needs to be done including completing the patient status feedback form as formatted by the Hospital. The take-home workshop material included guidelines, medical protocols following discharge, and counseling guidelines for providing emotional support and fostering spirituality.”

Explaining in detail the Programme implementation, Mr. Umesh Rao who also works in the Counseling Department of the Hospital, says,

“The Sai Organisation provides the Hospital with a list of the district doctors and seva representatives, who work in tandem as care providers to implement the programme. The Hospital at the time of discharge directs the patient to report, thirty days hence, to the appropriate local doctor for the first check up. Thereafter the local doctor and the district Seva representative take over the programme implementation.

The patient is asked to return for two more bi-monthly checks to complete the six-month recuperative rehabilitation. After every check up, a patient status feedback is routinely sent to keep the Hospital posted about the patient’s recuperation.

These periodical checks of the patients are done in the respective doctor's clinics during their regular consulting hours. The volunteer doctors also perceive this as a God given opportunity for rendering Seva in their own clinics!”

 

There is much more to this Unique Rehabilitation Project than the two paragraphs, so we have for you a power point presentation explaining everything about the project in detail. Please download the presentation here [6.8 MB] to know more about this unique project.


BABA’S STUDENTS AND PATIENT CARE

Technical Officers - The Unsung Heroes

Yes, it is the loving care of doctors, nurses, ward boys and volunteers which makes the Hospital what it is - but it is not only them. There is another group which remains in the backstage just like the inconspicuous yet crucial group in a great musical extravaganza working on the sets, on the logistics, the costumes, the lights, the cameras, etc…whose services are vital and basic for the performance to click. This hallowed group is the band of Technical Officers, all former students of Baba’s Institute, who were sent by Baba to premier healthcare institutions and trained on different operations of the Hospital before the Hospital actually started.

Former students of Baba's Institute working as Technical Officers in the hospital...

It is they who handle all the support services of the Hospital, be it maintaining the stores, pharmacy and accounts; or, monitoring and constantly upgrading the IT deployment in the Hospital; or, refining and simplifying the procedures of the Hospital with optimum patient welfare as the sole objective; or, assisting the surgeons in the theatre working as perfusionists; or, managing the crowded outpatient departments of the Hospital which handle more than 300 patients every morning; or maintaining all the expensive medical equipment in the Radiology department and other Laboratories as well as other infrastructure like generators, etc.; or even doubling up as Public Relation Managers, Administrative Officers, etc. All of them keep themselves abreast of the latest happenings in their areas of work and one of them has even contributed a chapter to a text book on Radiology, a field which he was first acquainted with five years ago, when he joined the Hospital after his post-graduation. They are Baba’s Messengers, the chosen Instruments of His grand Mission. In fact, they are like so many wheels working in clockwork precision, safeguarding the running of the great Hospital.

What motivates these post-graduates to forsake good careers and work in the Hospital? You ask them and they will say, “It is our love for Swami and the satisfaction of being a part of His glorious mission.”

They will join the counselors and hundreds of other volunteers and add, “Love is our tool, sincerity our drug and with empathy we see the unseen hand of the divine working in the process.” Their essential love, sincerity and empathy is what makes them stand out and they experience, as they say, the “unseen hand of the Divine”.

THE “UNSEEN DIVINE HAND” AND PATIENT CARE

In fact, this “unseen Divine hand” is an experience which every department of the Hospital can vouch for. Ask the surgeons and they will tell you there were so many cases where they thought the patient will not be able to cope, actually survived. And it happened so magnificently! Take the case of Juhi (name changed).

When the Neuro specialists saw Juhi, a middle aged woman, brought on a stretcher to outpatient department, they had little clue as to what was the source of her chronic back pain which only increased when she tried to walk. Juhi had experienced hell. She was turned away from all hospitals she had visited. “Your case is too complex with very low chances of survival, we are sorry,” is all they would say. Then somebody told her about Baba’s Hospital in Bangalore.


When the doctors examined her thoroughly they learnt she had a very peculiar problem. Her abdominal aorta (blood vessel) had widened sac-like and was eating into the spinal cord. Doctors from both the disciplines - Cardiac and Neuro - teamed up to save this poor lady as the operation was going to be a very complicated affair.

Her surgery was done under hypothermia (temperature of blood brought to levels lower with ice) so that her heart can temporarily be suspended (transferred to the heart-lung machine) by Cardiac surgeons while the Neuro surgeons corrected her abdominal aorta and placed spinal implants to support her spine. Her post-operative period was not easy, but when Juhi did leave the hospital, she went out walking!!

When Juhi returned to the hospital after three months for a follow up, doctors were amazed with the improvement in her condition. She was totally pain-free! “We are grateful to Bhagawan for His healing grace,” is all the surgeons say.

In fact, the construction of the huge gem of architecture that is the Hospital building which spread over half a million square feet of area in just sixteen months is in itself a miracle! Few thought it was possible. Mr. Satish Nayak, who was the Project Director during its construction stage says,

“Nearly 500 contractors and sub-contractors gladly bent over backward to fulfill their obligations so that the project schedule could strictly be maintained….such commitment, one could clearly see, was possible only because the Divine Hand was guiding them. It was a case of: ‘Without God on our side, we are nothing; with God on our side, we are everything.’

Dr. Shailaja, MD, in charge of the Bio-chemistry lab says, “When unexpected things happen once, we call it coincidence; when they happen twice it may be just things falling in place due to our good luck; when they happen all through the year, you call them miracles. That is what we in the lab have been experiencing.” She substantiates this saying how on one occasion when they felt that a quality-control workshop must be conducted for the lab technicians in Bangalore, just a few hours later, a doctor from USA landed there with a CD with exactly the contents on quality-control they were looking for! Similarly, when they were not able to programme their sophisticated equipment for a particular test needed for a patient and even the service engineers of the company had given up, suddenly it occurred to them that if they could configure the machine in a particular way they could get the right result they needed and it worked! The doctors could put the patient on the right treatment in time and then thanked Swami.

Acclamation and Recognition from WHO

Thanks to the committed staff and their devotion to Baba, the quality of the care being offered at the Hospital has attracted the attention of many national and international agencies and personalities.

“According to a World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Medical Information Accreditation report, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences at Whitefield in the outskirts of Bangalore, which specializes in cardiology and neurology surgeries and treatment, has one among the lowest rates of mortality, morbidity environment and hospital acquired infection. The Hospital has also been recognized by the National Board of Examination (NBE) to admit PG students in cardiology and neurology for practical training,” reported the Bangalore bureau of Pharmabiz.com on the 21st of Jan, 2002, that is, after one year of its operation."

Since 2002, the Hospital has been recognised by the NBE for other disciplines too like Cardiac Surgery, Neuro Surgery, Neurology and even Radiology.

 
     

INFUSION OF NEW TECHNOLOGY AND PATIENT CARE

The Knowledge Transfer from Distinguished Visiting Doctors

Cardiac Operation Theatre

Apart from the sophisticated equipment and the doctors’ commitment, another aspect which has contributed amply in maintaining the premium quality of patient care is the visit of distinguished doctors from different parts of the world and the subsequent transfer of knowledge and technologies that are in vogue in top-of-the line hospitals around the world.

These experts most willingly join the team of Hospital doctors for short periods and “bring us the latest technology from abroad, from their respective countries and institutions. They teach, they help… from their point of view they are performing Seva, free service. This they do without any reimbursement,” says Dr. Safaya, director of the Hospital. One representative illustration of the many is the case of Dr. Sanjay Kumar Prasad.

 
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Prasad is Consultant Cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, which is well known for the pioneering work done in the field of Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Cardiac MR).

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance is a revolutionary technology with the potential to change the way cardiac patients are treated. With Cardiac MR, screening patients to find out whether they might need an intervention does not need to be an invasive procedure anymore.

Dr. Sanjay spent a week with the Hospital doctors in the summer of 2004 and imparted knowledge of this exciting new field to the Radiologists and Cardiologists of the Hospital.

"The benefit to the patient is that,” says Dr. Sanjay, “it is much less uncomfortable, there is less risk from the procedure and it is much safer and at the same time provides more information than many of the standard procedures and so greatly helps the doctors manage cardiac patients. In time, Cardiac MR can become an out-patient procedure leading to improved throughput, increased cost savings and reduced morbidity in patients as compared to an invasive procedure.”

 

TALENTED DOCTORS AND PATIENT CARE

The infusion of latest techniques and expertise from regular visiting doctors along with their missionary zeal and enthusiasm greatly improves the skill and knowledge of the Hospital doctors. Many have received celebrated awards and fellowships and some regularly publish papers in reputed medical journals.

Dr. A S Hegde

Dr. A S Hegde, who heads the Neuro Sciences Department of the Hospital, is a very distinguished Neuro surgeon and a recipient of Karnataka Rajyotsava Award in 2003 for "outstanding contributions to the state and country."

Dr. Hegde on invitation is part of cutting-edge projects in healthcare, the recent one being the invitation by CSIR (Council For Scientific and Industrial Research, India) to be part of the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI), the largest public-private partnership scheme on behalf of Govt. of India, to develop high quality Medical Implants and Development of Gene Chip for molecular diagnosis of Malignant Brain Tumor.

He is also part of the six-member committee appointed by the Government of Karanataka to suggest views on improving the quality of healthcare services offered in the 16 government hospitals in and around Bangalore.

Dr. Smruti Ranjan Mohanty of the Cardiac Surgery Department, for instance, was awarded the Evarts A. Graham Traveling Fellowship for 2004-05, granted by the American Association of Thoracic Surgery. It entitles him to work in the specialized field of pediatric heart care in the prestigious Charles Stewart Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Michigan, USA which is rated “the Best” in the state of Michigan for child healthcare and fifth in the USA by ‘Child’ magazine. Dr. Mohanty is the third Indian to be conferred this Fellowship in the last 40 years. A very rare achievement, indeed!

Dr. Anil Kumar Mulpur, Consultant, Cardiac Surgery Department, has contributed to two chapters in a text book on "Techniques in Extracorporeal Circulation- 4th Edition" published by Arnold Publishers, U.K. in 2004. He has co-authored the first chapter of the textbook with Christopher M Munsch, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds, UK and also the sixteenth chapter with a few consultants working at the Leeds Hospital, U.K.

 

GOVERNMENT’S SUPPORT AND PATIENT CARE

The state government of Karnataka, the state in which the Hospital is located, acknowledging the noble mission of the Hospital not only provided land measuring 52.26 acres in the prime Export Promotion Industrial Park free to the Trust for the construction of the Hospital and waived many taxes during its construction stage, but also even now offers huge subsidies with respect to electricity charges. Similarly, the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, exempts customs duties for imports of equipments and infrastructure for the Hospital.

The infrastructure, the equipment, the expertise of the doctors along with the government’s support has made the Hospital exceptional. Add to this, its soothing ambience and the noble mission of Bhagawan, and the Hospital becomes a ‘role model’ for the healthcare profession.
 
Swami with the then Chief Minister (left) and
Governor of Karnataka in 2003

“It is Not Only a Medical But a Spiritual Contribution” – Dr. Krishna Kant, Former Vice-President of India.

Dr. Krishna Kant, former Vice-President of India, after visiting the Hospital way back in 2001, had said,

“SSSSIHMS is a wonderful contribution of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. To have a free and modern Hospital for the poor people of India was a dream and pledge of our leaders in the freedom struggle. This is a realisation of (the) dreams (of) Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. It reproduces our spiritual heritage. One feels proud after going round it. This can be (a) model for all the developing countries as well as the developed world. The developed world has these facilities but not free for the poor. May this example be followed by others. It is not only medical but a spiritual contribution.”

Yes, since its inception every patient and every visitor has looked at this Hospital with wonder. After 6,000 cardiac operations, more than 5,500 neuro surgeries, 3.5 lakh outpatient consultations and after five golden years of service, the Hospital is as dedicated and as committed as ever to serve the poor and the forlorn.


THE MILESTONES IN PATIENT CARE

In these five years that have gone by, the Hospital has also seen many changes, crossed many milestones, overcome many challenges and been a witness to many eye-opening revelations and stirring transformations.

“Making a Difference to People Who Had Given Up Hope.” – Dr. Safaya

When in the first six months of its existence, the Hospital crossed 1,500 surgeries, leading newspapers carried stories about it. Dr. A N Safaya, the Director, said at that time,

“The Institute has also treated 18,012 cardiac outpatients and 10,722 neuro outpatients. Another 2,000 plus cardiac and over 1,000 patients in the neuro-sciences were treated as in-patients in the Hospital.”

Speaking to the press on the social impact of the Hospital on that occasion, Dr. Safaya had said, it is “making a difference to people who had given up hope.”

 
   
"Indian Express", 26th July 2002

In April 2004, The Times of India under the title, “Holistic Healthcare: Hospital Treats 2.5 Lakh Patients” congratulated the Hospital for the feat and continued to add, “Most of them belong to the lower income group, and many come in from Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa and even some from European countries.”

"Times of India", 29th April, 2004
 

Who Are the People Most Benefited by the Hospital?

Truly, going by the Hospital statistics, more than 60% of the patients operated upon in this Hospital earn less than Rs. 1500 (US$ 33) per month and 25% out of this do not even have a monthly income of Rs. 500 (US$ 11). It is the same statistics with the 3,50,000 patients seen in the outpatient department of the Hospital - about 2,50,000 out of these earn less than Rs. 1500 a month.

“Since inception in January 2001,” the newspaper article in April 2004 continues, “doctors here have performed complicated procedures in cardiac and neuro branches, with state-of-the-art technology. In commercial terms, the cost of treatment meted out free is around Rs. 150 crore. Lakhs of patients depend entirely on the Hospital.” Beautifully, the article describes the Hospital as the ‘Hospital With a Heart.”

Bhagawan Baba in His discourse during the inauguration of the Hospital had said,

“We do not have any discrimination for caste, creed, religion, and nationality. We offer free treatment to everybody. We are determined to offer free treatment, come what may. Safeguarding the lives of patients is our main objective. Eschew greed for money; develop love and a spirit of sacrifice.”

MEDICAL CHALLENGES AND PATIENT CARE

It is this powerful inspiration coming directly from Bhagawan which has propelled the doctors and the staff of the Hospital to go any length to make someone’s life better.

Some Complex Operations…To Save a Labourer, a Small Shop Owner

Mrs. Mohan Das, a labourer, was shattered when her new born 18-day-old baby’s lips turned blue. When the doctor in a private hospital told her she will need over Rs. 300,000 to correct her baby’s heart and even that came with a 50% risk to her life, she just lost all hope and accepted her fate. It was at this time that she heard of Baba’s Hospital.

 

The doctors performed on her baby Arterial Switch Operation considered as one of the most complicated types in the practice of neonatal cardiac surgery involving correcting the interchanging between the aorta and pulmonary artery. Seeing the smile on her baby’s pink lips, Mrs. Das had no words to express her gratitude on her way back home. For her, her little one has received a second life by the grace of Bhagawan Baba.

Abdul Vahid who owns an electrical shop in Kotma town of Madhya Pradesh was a worried man when he learnt that his child, Saniya, has a very complex congenital defect of the heart—Dextro Transposition of the Great Arteries, due to which impure blood is pumped to all parts of the body and the pure blood is sent to the lungs. Abdul could never have afforded the complex surgery, costing around Rs. 3 lakhs.

When he heard of Baba’s Hospital through the local Sai Samithi, it was like a boon from heaven. In March, 2003, Abdul brought Saniya to the Hospital. Balloon Atrial Septostomy was performed as an intermediate step and 6 months later Saniya was operated for Senning’s. In the surgery lasting over 8 hours, the defect was corrected, and Baby Saniya having recovered completely is now in the pink of health. For this free gift of health to his child, Abdul is ever grateful to the Hospital.

Cardiac and Neuro Surgeons Come Together to Restore Eyesight to a Farmer

Similar was the experience of a poor farmer from Coimbatore in August of 2004 when in a rare display of skills Cardiac and Neurosurgeons of the Hospital got together to perform yet another rare and complex procedure, this time to reverse the sudden onset of blindness in one of the eyes of the farmer.

The blindness, the doctors found out was because of a giant aneurysm (a balloon-like enlargement of the arteries) in his brain.

The aneurysms can sometimes grow to enormous sizes and cause significant difficulty in treating them. In this case too, the aneurysm was so large that it was compressing the optic nerves and other vital structures in the brain.

Any excessive manipulation of the normal brain would cause serious complications, which could sometimes be fatal. Therefore direct aneurysm clipping, the normal way out for dealing with these bulges, was ruled out. It was here that the specialty of cardiology also came in.

The cross functional team of surgeons and perfusionists operated on him using a technique called ‘hypothermia with low flow state’ or ‘cardiac arrest’ which would help the neurosurgeon open the aneurysm directly, reduce its size and then clip it.

The cardiac surgeons opened up the heart and diverted the blood to pass through the heart-lung machine. Simultaneously, the body was cooled to a very low temperature of 18°C, at which the brain would survive without oxygen for about 20-30 minutes. The aneurysm was opened, reduced in size and then clipped successfully in a marathon surgery lasting over 9 hours.

The farmer, needless to say, was very grateful to get back his eye sight.

 

The New On-Campus Accommodation

For Patient Attendants

Recently, in a move to better the facilities for the patients, an “on-campus accommodation facility” for the patient attendants has been constructed. This was a long-felt need as most of the patients being very poor, go through untold suffering to get accommodation.

The Salarpuria Group of Companies graciously came forward to build the “Sai G.D. Salarpuria Foundation Block” and offer it to Swami. The new building located just beside the Hospital once fully operational will be a great boon for the patients and their attendants.

So far five such complex surgeries have been performed in the Hospital for complex aneurysms. That success in such cases requires very high degrees of skill, coordination, and endurance from the surgeons and other staff is implicit.

All of them and many more have experienced the "Joy of Life" in the hospital

On similar occasions, the Hospital, as the Times of India article in 2004 suggests, has indeed done challenging operations and complicated procedures whenever required to save a breadwinner of a family, a young mother, a teenager or a tiny baby.

“He is Sai’s Gift to Our Family” – Thankamani, Mother of an Infant Patient

The sadness in the eyes of Thankamani holding her 18 days old baby in her arms said it all…Her baby was born with a complex heart ailment referred to as – Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) which involved malfunctioning of the two major vessels that arise from the heart. Hailing from a family of labourers, Thankamani could barely provide for her family, so the surgery for her little one was just an elusive dream. The child’s condition deteriorated and she was in a state of panic. It was at this time that she heard about Baba’s Hospital. Free surgery? It seemed too good to be true. She rushed to Bangalore, nevertheless.

“An Arterial Switch Operation (ASO), which belongs to the higher strata in the risk spectrum in neonatal surgery was done and two months later,” says Ashwin V, the technical officer at the outpatient department, “a bubbly little boy walked into the outpatient department for a review."

The smile on his lips and sparkle in his eyes betrayed the painful-looking scar over his once-defected heart.

 

The mother speaks excitedly about his first words and his first steps towards her. Her little bundle of joy is blue no more she says. She can send him to school, watch him study, play and grow as a normal child.

And then with a simple love and gratitude known only to the very poor, she adds, "We have given him a name now. We have decided to call him 'Sai Prasad'. He is Sai's Prasad, or Sai’s gift, to our family".

This institution, literally is a poem in brick and concrete, as somebody said. It is a poem that began five years ago and will probably never end. Hundreds of Thankamanis, Abduls and Mohan Dass’ script new stirring stanzas every day and the great saga of divine love continues….drenching the hearts of millions with pure selfless love. A love that loves for love's sake alone.

 

H2H Connects Two Hearts…

If the readers of Heart2Heart remember, in the November issue of H2H, we carried the moving story of a poor student, Pradeep, from Orissa who was operated on in this Hospital. (To read it again, go here). Pradeep’s father, a farmer, could hardly afford his education and it was Pradeep’s perseverance alone that won him a seat for studying MBBS. But his heart ailment troubled him and made his plans of becoming a doctor an elusive dream. Since then….Pradeep came to the Hospital, was operated upon and was so touched that after the operation he said,

“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. ”

But the story does not end there! Reading this article one Sai devotee from Australia wrote to us saying that he would like to help Pradeep. During Baba’s Birthday celebrations, this gentleman came to our studio and even took the address of the boy and said, “I will find out all details about him and see to it that he becomes a doctor.” We gave the gentlemen all the information and advice he needed.

It was a great feeling for us witnessing two hearts coming together through Heart2Heart!


THE IDEAL PATIENT CARE – WORTHY OF EMULATION

A Shining Star….A Guiding Light – Dr. Krucoff

Dr. Mitchell W Krucoff from the Duke University Medical Centre, says, “Like shining stars in the darkest of nights, Baba’s Hospitals in Puttaparthi and Bangalore not only live the answer to that question in the free care they deliver every day, but also as examples of how much God is ready to teach us about the alleviation of human suffering through optimal medical care. He has built these programmes – all we have to do is to open our eyes and see…..to the western world of modern medicine, what blessing it is to have such a guiding light.”

 

Speaking to the Hospital staff on one occasion, Baba said,

“The service you are performing is a very exalted and highly beneficial act. Service to the downtrodden, sick and miserable people who are in pain and afflicted with disease is the most precious and valuable deed.

The work being done here is very sacred work, and words cannot adequately describe it. So work happily and spread happiness to more and more patients. Be happy and make everyone happy.”

Making others happy – that is the key.

Is it Possible Elsewhere?

Many say it is great that such wonderful Hospitals set up by Baba exist, but it cannot be replicated elsewhere. It is just not possible. To this, Dr. Safaya, the Director of the Hospital, in an interview with Felix Wust, editor of SWISS MED, said,

“Why not? The Western countries should be able to do it. I don’t think Westerners are devoid of sympathy for the people. I don’t think the West is lacking in the type of people who think that serving man is serving God.”

With Selfless Love…Nothing is Impossible

So that is the crux of the story. If any personality or group can love as selflessly as Baba, then it is surely possible! For, there is the desire to do good in every human heart. It has only to be strengthened, fortified and practised; and that is the great miracle of transformation which silently but surely is happening in the quiet corners of every heart that has seen Him and experienced His love.

 

Whether any more such grand “Temples of Healing” stand steady and strong as beacons of hope for the poor and the forgotten, each one of us can surely become a guiding light, a little shining star helping many others to make their journey from discord to harmony, from hopelessness to hope and from depression to delight! And this, we know, is possible only with love, genuine selfless love!

- Heart2Heart Team


We would like to thank all the technical officers of SSSIHMS, WF - Praveen, Satish Chandra, Vasu, D V Chandra Sekhar, Sai Kiran, Ravi Kiran, Ashwin and others - for their active support and help in the making of this article.

 


Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine, January 2006 Issue
http://www.radiosai.org/Journals/Vol_04/01JAN06/coverstory_sssihms_wf.htm

 

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