Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital - a 'moving' miracle of love
The story of a Divine Plan
It was in the year 1997 that Swami called a young doctor for an interview. The doctor was very thrilled at this coveted opportunity. It had been quite a journey for him to reach this point in life. He was unable to believe that his first association with Swami had been as a hardened critic who had lashed out against ‘false godmen’. Today, Swami’s overwhelming love for the poor, His unbounded compassion for the needy and His relentless selfless service had brought the doctor at His lotus feet. Having come to Swami, he had experienced His divinity and the doctor soon joined millions in their prayers for an interview. Today, was one such day.
Such was the inspiration he had derived from Swami in the past few years that he told Swami,
“Swami, I want to dedicate myself for service. I shall give up my job.”
Swami smiled at him. The doctor had not the slightest idea of what Swami had in store for him. Swami replied,
“Surely! I shall give you a job in the Super-Speciality hospital.”
The doctor promptly went about with the procedure of resigning from the secure government job that he held. His family was shocked as they did not have faith in this “orange-robed figure”. But he convinced them through fear factor,
“Evil befalls those who do not listen to Sri Sathya Sai Baba. You must support me in this step.”
With that, he arrived at Puttaparthi and was blessed with another interview. In that interview Swami told him to stay around, serve in Puttaparthi part-time and continue his job in Hyderabad. This was a shocker! Again, Swami just smiled.
Today, Dr.Narasimhan is the director of the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital or the SSSMH and his story is one of unbounded grace in a Divine Plan.
A super specialty hospital on the move...
“Of course I work in the Super Specialty Hospital”, he says, “only that it is a mobile one! People have to go to the Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi and Bangalore to avail medical treatment. Here, we go to the people!”
The story of the Mobile Hospital brought tears of love and joy in my eyes. It is a story that has unfolded over the past 7 years. In 2005, out of the blue, Swami called the Secretary and asked,
“Is it possible to build a bus with all the modern state-of-the-art medical diagnostic equipment in it?”
He replied,“Swami, I shall find out.”
Precisely at that time, the Siemens company had come out with a medical specialty bus. Ah! The divine timing! That bus was procured and Dr. Narasimhan, who was till now in the dark as to what was the exact reason Swami had called him to Puttaparthi, was made the director of the project. The advice Swami gave him was simple and profound,
“A doctor needs to provide care. Then alone it becomes MEDI-CARE. Otherwise, it remains only MEDI-SIN (playing on the word medicine). This is a holy endeavor.”
That has been the guiding light and principle for this ‘moving’ marvel of holistic healthcare. I was privileged to visit one of the nodes today. 6 mandals(sections of districts) have been divided into 12 nodes. Each node is the central point for 25-30 villages. And in a single day, the bus with its set of 15 doctors provides treatment to about 600 patients on an average. Since this service is on for 13 days a month, it translates into nearly 1 lakh patients annually. The detailed statistics of this mobile hospital venture are simply staggering. And the treatment is totally free, rendered with great love. Watching this massive and magnificent service just envelops the heart.
Cambridge is all eyes and ears to the marvel
And this experience is about to go global. The local government medical colleges do not seem to recognize this massive service but when Paul Siklos, Associate Clinical Dean at the University at Cambridge, saw this first hand, he was bowled into silence. In the middle of 2012, he plans to bring students from the Cambridge to study this magnificent model of healthcare and the way it is profoundly and positively impacting people. A small problem arose. Since there is no academic Institute associated with the Mobile Hospital(MH), the students who came for internships or projects could not be issued any certificates.
“That is no issue”, Dr.Siklos said, “We just want to come here and see it. We want no certificates.”
The people of a village are very different compared to those in the city. They are ignorant and have many misconceptions of a disease. In fact, more sick a patient is, lesser the chance of him/her going to a hospital. In such a scenario, the MH provides top quality care in the fields of pathology, radiology, medicine, surgery, ENT, ophthalmology, dentistry, gynecology/obstetrics, pediatrics and dermatology.
Care with entertainment too!
It is not only curative medicine that is rendered here. Doctors speak to the patients on how to prevent many diseases and how to manage ones like diabetes, hypertension and epilepsy. The villagers are also entertained with movies of inspiring personalities in the evening while the kids are shown cartoons for a while. When this was done, Dr.Narasimhan had a doubt on whether these few cartoons could be shown to the children in the evening. He thought he would seek Swami’s guidance in that matter. When he did so, Swami said,
(I first quote the sweet Telugu words for those who understand because the translation does not do justice.)
“ Vilasamunte Vinodam Untundi
Vinodamunte Aanandam Untundi
Aanandamunte Aarogyam Untundi
Aarogyamunte Aadhyatmikam Untundi “
It translates as:
“If there is entertainment, there will be merriment. If there is merriment, there will be joy. If there is joy, there will be health. If there is health, there will be spirituality.”
And so, while the patients are treated for skin problems, dental problems and even cancer, they are treated to a fare of healthy entertainment as well. Talking of cancer, the latest addition to the MH’s repertoire, two women were surgically operated upon to cure them of cervical cancer and breast cancer. These surgeries along with all the other ones are done at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi.
Impact on the villagers
I wanted to see how the service had impacted the villagers. I will not be exaggerating when I say that many of the villagers love the doctors like their parents! They respect and revere them. They consider them a part of the family. In fact, in one village, Chowthaguntapalli, the people built a building on their own to provide working space for the doctors. Another person came forward and offered his home to be used as a dental clinic. When the villagers saw that the bus was unable to move through a narrow section of the road. Within a week, they had themselves laid the road which is now used even by the government buses!
The people consider the MH as their temple. They enter it reverentially with folded hands. Hundreds of patients who have been healed and treated go around villages telling their story. They also share with the people the importance of prayer, love and service in one’s life. And all that has been silently inspired by Swami.
A new perspective...
The doctors too are no exception. They are simply moved. There are about 400 of them on Dr.Narasimhan’s roster and they come once a week, once a month or few times annually, as per their convenience. Dr.Narasimhan revealed something very fantastic,
“Half of the doctors who come here were not devotees of Swami. But seeing the service and experiencing the bliss that this service gives them, they have become devotees. They say that the fulfillment of having truly helped a patient completely comes only here. Every doctor in the country has that intention to serve. Sadly, the system has never given the doctors a chance.”
This was a complete reversal of what Aamir Khan had concluded on the 4th episode of the popular Indian TV show, Satyameva Jayate, about the nature of doctors.
“Swami has given a chance for the goodness to sprout and it is happening on a massive scale. Even after the physical departure of Swami, the MH has only been growing”, the doctor says. I find it true as I visit the pharmacy and see the most expensive medicines being given away freely.
“Who is sponsoring all this?”, I ask
“Of course, it is done completely by the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. But I must say that many medicines have been donated to the Central Trust by Dr.Reddys Laboratories. They give us even the expensive medicines free of cost.”
Swami always believes in delivering the necessities of life at the doorstep. (Has he not been doing it for all the creatures on land, in sea and in the air for aeons together, since the beginning of creation?) And that was His instruction to Dr.Narasimhan too - holistic medical care at the people’s doorstep. Even the most complex of medical reports that are needed by the patient are delivered to him/her free and within a few hours.
“Even after paying in hospitals, the patients are told to return the next day for reports. We work hard, without food sometimes, to ensure that the reports are made and given to the patients before they leave to their respective villages from the nodal center.”
But that is not the only service that Swami’s bus renders. It holds in its side boot, a 20 KVA generator. This generates electricity not only for the equipment on board but also for the lights, fans and medical equipment set up the in village schools as well! Even imagining tertiary care in a place where electricity is a luxury, becomes difficult.
I walked around the whole place. I was shooting pictures - pictures of love, hope, caring and service. I only had tears and more tears. My heart erupted with rejoicing. What a miracle this service is! This moving marvel of a hospital has so many stories to tell. These are the stories that we should disburse in the world! It inspires us to do service in our own little ways at least.
But what about Dr.Narasimhan’s livelihood. How does he earn it?
“I live off my savings. My wife is salaried and my in-laws also help us a bit. But I cannot live without this service.”
He raises his heavily bandaged arm and continues.
“I fell in the bathroom. I prayed to Swami that the pain should be postponed till the 13th so that I could do my monthly work. It is His grace that the pain has not yet come. I shall get it treated after the 13th!”
My heart silently sent prayers to Swami for this great serv(e)ant of the Lord. It also prayed that the government and NGOs get inspired by this model and replicate it, partially at least. Finally, there is hope that this awareness is passed on to as many as possible...
CNBC-TV18 in partnership with ICICI Lombard instituted the India Healthcare Awards in 2010 to honour and recognise the healthcare providers in the country who are doing a great job in the given situation. The wonderful seva by Dr.Narasimhan and his team of dedicated doctors won this prestigious award for the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital. When the channel later presented this programme on National television, the mobile hospital was the FIRST to be mentioned.
Given below are some pictures of from the event and that is followed by a short, 8-minute video on this magnificent service.
A brief glimpse into the miraculous mobile hospital
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya