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Sparsh Hospital, Bangalore

Medical Milestones

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Medical Milestones at Sparsh Hospital, Bangalore

Hejje Guruthu

This is a project that is close to my heart. Being a doctor I have seen several instances of ill health and suffering. It is frustrating for me as a medical professional to be unable to help many of them. I clearly remember the day when this condition called club foot touched me deeply. One evening, I was going for a walk with my mother, when we came across a construction site. We noticed this little girl, a daughter of one of the workers. She must have been two years old and covered in dust and cement. She was trying to crawl around and catch up with her older brother who was running.

My mum pointed at the girl's feet, which were both turned in and pointing towards the sky. I was a medical student at that time, of which my mum was very proud. I remember her telling that little girls mother I was going to be a doctor soon and will be able to help. I took that little girl Kavita and her family to one of the senior doctors at the hospital.

The Doctor examined Kavita and told me that since the child is already two years old she will need extensive surgery to correct her feet and even than the results may not be very good. He mentioned that if the child was seen earlier it would have been possible to correct them completely and possibly without surgery, that too at a fraction of the cost and time. All these issues upset the mother and she resigned to her child's destiny. She was not aware of the fact that early treatment could have saved her daughter's feet. She was scared of the word surgery. And the biggest problem of all was that she couldn't afford the surgery on her daily wages.

That was my first failure as a young help someone in need. Subsequently through my career I have had many such instances. This incidence was over 25 years ago. Now when I look back I am sure that she has grown up as a young lady. I cannot even begin to think what she must have gone through as a child and then as a teenager. What kind of life would she have had? What kind of life is she leading now? I am almost certain that she never went to school. She must have faced teasing and jibes from other children; sat at street corners and watched them run and play.

Would she have had many friends? Probably not. Imagine what she must have been thinking. She may not have had the ability to analyze her problem but surely must have asked herself "Why me". As a teenager and impressionable, she would have been consumed by embarrassment without proper footwear, an awkward and labored gait. I am certain whenever she sat down she would pull her clothes over to cover her feet.

If she was writing a letter to me today, I wonder if it would read like this.

"I was born with twisted feet. This wasn't my fault. My parents were poor. I can't be blamed for that. My society, my neighbors, people who passed me by, were insensitive and mean towards me. Through I didn't deserve it. I knew my feet were bad but was too little, too weak and didn't know how to ask for help. Even though I tried telling everyone that my Hejje Guruthu (footprints) on the cement and the dust did not look like my anna's. No one cared to notice and help, if someone had, then my life and destiny would have been so different. I could have been like anyone of you. Today I am angry, I am sad, I feel like I have no hope. And all this for a foot problem that could have been so easily taken care of....but was not.

It is 25 years now, India has progressed, and every one of you is living better than our previous generations did. But what about me? I am worse off than my mother was. My mother was illiterate and poor with few opportunities but at least she could work as a coolie and fend for her family. I can't get a job even at a construction site. Each one of you passed me by without noticing me .......

Friends, come join us. No matter what you do or who you are. Reach out and touch the lives of those who are less fortunate than you. We can't let the next generation ask us why as a society we didn't care for one another. We can't let another Kavita happen. Let us make every child proud of their own Hejje Guruthu!

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