October 31, 2009
Bangalore : Sparsh is touch and Vachana is promise, if one were go by the meaning of the Kannada words. But at the Sparsh hi-tech hospital in the sprawling Narayana Health City complex, off Bangalore city outskirts, Sparsh Vachana has literally come to denote the promise of a better life for kids.
The week-long Sparsh Vachana initiative organised by a highly dedicated and service-oriented team of specialist doctors led by Dr Sharan Shivraj Patil, Chairman and Chief Orthopaedic Surgeon, which partly came to an end on Sunday, October 25, has opened the doors for a better life for as many as 175 children. Well, not exactly concluded. The complicated surgeries requiring the healing touch, expertise and attention of specialists have been completed. Those that can be handled by the doctors of Sparsh hospital are still being carried out as the Vachana initiative is a continuing task. When it is scheduled to officially end in another week, the total number of children to get the benefit of the promise will touch at least 200 by October 31.
The surgeries performed on young kids to bigger children upto 15 or 16 years are of varying nature ranging from club foot correction, limb lengthening, multiple osteotomy and rodding for oseteogenesis or brittle bone disease, pelvic osteotomy for congenital dislocation of hip, cerebral palsy and other gross deformity correction.
Dr Patil and his team of dedicated doctors comprising Dr Yohannan John, Director of Medical Services, Chief of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Services, and Dr Ashok Raj Koul, Chief of Department of Plastic Surgery, are the backbone of the Sparsh hospital and its Vachana initiative. But a team 11 paediatric orthopaedic surgeons, three anaesthetists and three nurses from UK are the `guest’ performer under the leadership of Mangalorean Dr James Fernandes, who is an old alumni of St John’s Medical College, Bangalore and Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, presently working as Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and PLRS lead, at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, UK.
Dr Om Lahoti, who is teaching at King’s College, London, is also part of the team. Apart from the doctors from UK and Sparsh Hospital, a team of doctors from Mumbai led by Dr Ashok Johari and Dr Padnya Sawant have also joined the Sparsh Vachana venture. Doctors from US were also supposed to take part but had to drop out at the last minute due to unavoidable circumstances. Another team of doctors from Mumbai also participated in the Sparsh Vachana programme under the leadership of Dr Ashok Johari and supported by the Child Foundation.
``We could perform surgeries on a maximum of 150 kids for a fortnight if all our operation theatres are put to optimum use from morning till night, thanks to the voluntary service offered by the team of UK, US and Indian doctors. We decided to select a maximum of 200 kids, because that the is the maximum number that we could accommodate,’’ explained Dr Patil disclosing that the kind of surgeries and follow-up treatment would cost the hospital a minimum of Rs 1 crore, on a conservative estimate. ``With each of surgeries costing around Rs 25,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh on implants, cost of tests and medicines alone, the total cost would have been many times more if the services of the specialists and their expenses were to be borne by us,’’ he says.
Several leading corporate houses, companies, individuals and non-governmental organisations, including some religious bodies, generously contributed funds. ``We have not raised the full amount but are confident of doing so because the response has been good. The hospital’s in-house Sparsh Foundation also pitched in.’’ As many as four screening camps at different places were proposed to be held. ``But the response at the first screening camp itself was so overwhelming with 780 chidlren and their parents turning up from different parts of the country, the other three camps were dropped,’’ he said.
Sparsh Vachana has turned out to be a revelation or rather eye-opener of sorts of the stark reality of rural life. Boys outnumbered girls. Does this mean girls are relatively better off? Unlikely, says Dr Patil, explaining that parents, their guardians and relatives obviously wish preferential treatment for the male off-spring reflecting the male-centric attitudes prevalent in society. Roughly 27% of the chosen 200 children had previous surgeries, some of whom done more than once but half-hearted or incomplete. Another starting fact that emerged during the screening and subsequent visits to the hospitals by the parents with their children was women taking up the burden of physically carrying their 8, 10 or even 11 year-old grown up children on their frail backs even though able-bodied men, including husbands were accompanying. It was probably because mothers are generally more possessive, passionate, compassionate and even obsessive of their less than normal children or have to shoulder the burden of looking after the kids. In several cases, the women had to single-handedly look after the responsibility because their husbands may have abandoned them because of the `problem-child’ and disinclination to bear burden.
``Considering the suffering and burden endured by these poor women and the pathetic sight of these rural womenfolk carrying grown-up children, I often feel that whatever we are doing to help them is nothing compared with their sorry plight. In fact, I might even say that we are empowering these women by relieving them of their anxieties and burden,’’ said Dr Yohannen John, Director of Medical Services. Contrary to popular perception that malnutrition might lead to physical anomalies in children, Dr Patil feels majority of the children were reasonably well-nourished. Surprisingly, family support and help from the community or NGOs were quite strong for most of the disadvantaged people.
Some of cases of children, who underwent surgery at Sparsh Vachana and now look forward to leading a better life, are worth recounting. Sample these: 11-year-old Praveena was a normal child, who dislocated her elbow while playing in school three years ago. Despite undergoing three surgeries already, she is still unable to even hold a pen properly as she cannot rotate her forearm and therefore cannot write exams. Dr James Fernandes, who operated on her, feels Praveena should be alright soon because he has handled similar cases in the past. The case of 15-year-old Abhishek of Kolar, who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bone, is bit complicated as such children tend to get repeated fractures even with minor injuries. He has had six surgeries earlier to no avail. Dr Fernandes, who successfullyoperated on the boy by inserting a telescoping rod in the leg to firm up the bones, said the boy should be okay.
Two-year-old Harshavardhan, suffering from club foot, is one of the several such cases regularly handled by the hospital. Dr Om Lahoti, who operated on the boy by doing a tendon transfer to balance his feet, says the parents could see the difference within six months. Three-old Lakshmi from Haveri district in Karnataka is another case of club foot, whose both legs were operated. Anaesthesiology Anaesthesiology The case of another 9-year-old child, whose leg stopped functioning due to a brain injury, is out of the routine as the default nerve needs to be corrected. So was two-year-old Gaganashree from Sira taluk, who is suffering from congenital pseudoarthrosis of the tibia, a condition in which normally soild leg bone gets replaced by unhealthy, poorly, vascularized bone. Dr Ashok Raj Koul, chief of plastic surgery department, performed the nearly 10-hour-long surgery involving removal of unhealthy portions of bone and replacement by a segment of vascularized opposite fibula.
Nine-year-old Madhuri from Kengeri in the city had been suffering since she was barely five, when her leg was crushed under a truck. Though several attempts were made to correct the crippling open fracture, she could not be healed. As her leg was shortened due to the accident, she had to move on her heels as the toes could not touch the ground. After a lengthy surgery, her foot has been straightened and an implant inserted to lengthen the leg. One of the last to be operated upon, Madhuri awaits the promise of better life with hope. Five-year-old Mallaiah of Gulbarga with 36 toes in his legs is also hopeful of a better and normal life.
The Sparsh Vachana initiative received widespread appreciation with leading personalities from all walks of life including religious, political leaders, businessmen, cricketers and film artistes visiting the hospital and cheering the patients, and of course applauding the medical team of doctors and staff. Among the many people who visited the hospital on different days included Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, Archbishop of Bangalore Bernard Moras, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, cricketers Anil Kumble, Robin Uthappa, Kannada film actress Ramya and UK Deputy High Commissioner Richard Hyde.
Dr Patil is the architect of the Sparsh Vachana programme as also the Sparsh hospital in Health City complex. The 400-bed hi-tech hospital is dedicated for accidents, orthopaedics, plastic as well as Maxillo Facial Surgery. It has emerged as a special medical centre that instantly be converted into a mass casualty centre instantly in case of major emergency due to its flexi design concept. The strategic location in the Health City, gives Sparsh hospital the benefit of leveraging the services of other speciality hospitals like the Narayana Hrudayalaya, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Hospital as well as the Narayana Nethralaya to reinforce the capability to handle any eventuality.
With a highly qualified and professional medical, nursing and support team having experience of working at some of the top national and international medical centres, the hospital is equipped with the latest infrastructure facilities like operation suites, technology and communication systems to deliver quality healthcare.
``Delivering affordable world class healthcare is not only a vision, but also a source of inspiration that powers the world of Sparsh. This remains fundamental to our brand of healthcare and translates itself into Sparsh Hospital’s mission,’’ says Dr Patil, adding:``Setting new benchmark for quality, consistency and delivery of healthcare services while developing a way to make it affordable and accessible to all while ensuring proper patient orientation, social responsibility and best in class clinical practice and research are the cornerstones.’’
A committed and service-minded person, Dr Patil firmly believes in the dictum: ``The gift of life and every living moment constantly inspires us to reach out and help.’’ He is passionate when he talks about his hospital: ``We want to be the finest musculo-skeletal care hospital in the world. Our institution will be driven by patient orientation. Educating, partnering and helping our patients make informed decisions at every stage of their treatment. Our clinical practice will be evidence based and of the highest integrity. We will create an institution that becomes a centre of excellence leveraging teaching, research and innovation as tools to bring world-class healthcare within the reach of all. Everything we do, we do with a human touch.’’
The story of Sparsh or how the Sparsh Vachana initiative came into being is incomplete without mentioning the case of Lakshmi Tatma, a two-year-old ischiopagus conjoint twin from a small remote village in Araria district, located near the border of Nepal, in Bihar. Lakshmi, who could barely drag herself around , was actually two bodies united at the pelvis with only one having a head and the other being a parasite. Two pairs of arms and legs were formed at either end of the two adjoining torsos, creating a child with 8 limbs. The incidence of conjoined twins is 1 in 50,000 with Lakshmi’s kind of twins forming a mere 3% of all types of conjoined babies. She had become an object of considerable curiosity and even misguided reverence, with some even offering to ``buy’’ the child to make money by exploiting the ``freak’’ value. Dr Patil turned out to be the proverbial saviour. Convincing the parents – Shambu and Poonam – Lakshmi was brought to Sparsh and admitted in October 2007, the first such occasion when the family travelled so far away from home, Dr Patil scripted Lakshmi’s virtual rebirth. A 36-member medical team, supported by paramedical staff, performed a marathon 40-hour surgery starting from 7 am on November 6, 2007. The parasitic twin was successfully separated. ``Today Lakshmi is a healthy and normal child. She is now studying in a school in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She can grow to normal womanhood, get married and even have kids,’’ says Dr Patil reliving the tense moments of two years back.
But it was the experience in treating Lakshmi that brought national and even international fame and recognition to Sparsh hospital and gave birth to the Sparsh Vachana initiative, Dr Patil said. ``The rich and affluent have the luxury of getting treated in corporate hospitals and the government hospitals cannot handle cases involving complex and prohibitively expensive surgeries. So, who will look after the poor and middle class families and ensure a better life for them and their kids?,’’ he asks.
Dr Patil, son of retired Supreme Court judge and member of the national Human Rights Commission Shivaraj Patil and son-in-law of industrialist and Congress politician Shamanur Shivashankarappa, was born in Raichur district. After his early schooling in Gulbarga, she studied in MES College Bangalore and did MBBS at MR Medical College, Gulbarga. He did a brief stint at St Martha’s Hospital, Bangalore and did his post-graduation at Kasturba Medical College, Manipal and worked in some of the premier teaching institutions in the North West of England, including the Alder Hey’s Children’s Hospital. He gained valuable experience at Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Hope Hospital, Manchester and Warrington District General Hospital and obtained Mch Orth degree from Liverpool University, making him the youngest graduate to be accorded this honor since the course began in 1926.
Upon returning to India in 1996, he joined the premier Institute of Manipal Hospital in Bangalore as their youngest consultant. While working with this organization, he single-handedly performed over 5000 major complex surgical procedures, especially in the field of Pediatric Orthopedic, Joint Replacement Surgery and complex trauma. He started the Sparsh Hospital in April 2006 and has managed to inculcate the philosophy of providing ‘quality healthcare to the common man without compromise.’ A project named ``Resuscitation by Right’’ for accident victims and grassroots health camps, ``Hejje Guruthu’’ to provide free treatment to children with Club Food disease, a congenital problem, and make Karnataka into a ``Neglected Club Foot Free State’’ and Cleft care, regular camps for Arthritis, Disability and Yeshasvini, Sparsh Neighborhood Care Scheme and Sparsh Kavacha, a personal accident and medical package policy are some of the innovative schemes implemented because of Dr Patil vision and commitment.