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Indian Hospital
Indian Hospital: Episode 2
We follow a young girl as she realises her dream of a new face and a young man suffering from motor neurone disease.
Last Modified: 15 May 2012 10:38
This unique observational documentary series shines a light on Indian society as it is rarely seen. In six one-hour programmes it illuminates the complexities and dilemmas of modern India through the extraordinarily varied lives of patients and medical staff working at the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital Complex in Bangalore.

A series by Paul Roy.

In India, a baby is born every second - producing the largest number of babies in the world. Of these, three million will die before the age of five - many from a treatable heart disease.

"We [India] produce 28 million babies a year, over 600 children a day with [a] heart disease," explains Dr Devi Shetty, the founder of the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital Complex in Bangalore. "We need to do 2.5 million heart surgeries a year and all the heart hospitals in the country put together perform less than 90,000 heart surgeries. In any other country 90,000 operations would be enormous, here it is a drop [in the ocean]."

The paediatric hospital has a 70-bed intensive care unit and performs 220 paediatric cardiac surgeries a month, making it the largest paediatric centre in the world.

Dr Colin John, the head of cardiac surgery at the hospital, is one of the world's most experienced paediatric cardiac surgeons. During his 35-year career he has already performed more than 20,000 operations. A typical Western surgeon would conduct just a few thousand throughout the course of theirs.

Rekha Menon has come from Dubai to see John at Narayana Hrudayalaya. Her son, Vicky, has a recurring heart problem.

Rekha and her husband, Manoj, are Indian professionals who could afford to go anywhere in the world for their son's treatment but John's reputation has brought them here.

And the doctor says that 12-year-old Vicky will need to undergo open heart surgery - a complicated and risky procedure.

Not everyone that comes to the Narayana needs financial concessions. As the Menons can afford to pay for Vicky's operation, this fast-tracks preparations for his surgery in line with the hospital's principles. But Vicky will receive exactly the same medical treatment as the poorest non-paying patient.

At a hospital like Narayana, where up to 300 cardiac operations are performed every week, it is easy to forget that Vicky's operation is still high risk.

"I keep telling myself it is just a fear and I'm going to see him do everything that other children do - go to university, have a great job, have a family," says Rekha.

Meanwhile, it has been a month since 13-year-old Rajeshwari was first seen by Dr Rolson. She is back from her village where she has been building up her strength ahead of her life-changing operation. If successful, she will be able to open her mouth and eat solid foods for the first time in 11 years.

For a village girl from a poor family this expensive operation would be totally out of reach had it not been for the charity scheme run by the hospital. It is a tricky procedure but if it works it will change her life forever.

Dr Salins has perfected his techniques over 20 years practicing both in India and abroad. Having operated on royalty and film stars as well as the poor, like Rajeshwari, he is considered a master craftsman and a leader in his field.

"To me this is not really a challenge but when you really see a girl and get to know her family, it completely changes your viewpoint," Salins explains. "For me to see this lady from the age of two she has never had a meal .... Removing a cancer is one thing but creating someone's face and giving them a normal face is tremendous. For me it is very, very fulfilling. That is why I like to do this."

And to everyone's delight, the operation, although complicated, is successful. Rajeshwari says she never used to attend family functions nor visit her relatives, but now she is ready to go to her village.

On this episode of Indian Hospital we also follow 30-year-old Prabhu.

He first started to encounter difficulties with walking quickly or climbing stairs when he was 13.

"I was very confused. [I used to think] my arms are fine, my legs are fine, my body's fine - why am I not able to walk? My grandma told [me] that there's ... something called black magic - so they told [me] someone has done black magic to you," Prabhu explains.

But his problems could not be cured by a visit to the temple or the blessings of a priest.

At the age of 15, after two long years of suffering, Prabhu went for medical treatment. The doctor's diagnosis was devastating: Prahbu was suffering from motor neurone disease - a progressive, debilitating and incurable condition.

Now he relies upon his family to feed him and even take him to the bathroom - looking after him as they would a small child.

"In the early stage I used to feel really, really depressed .... I used to sit and cry all the time," Prabhu says.

"At times I would try committing suicide as well. I used to [think] ... why should I live on this earth? I am a burden for everybody, I am not able to take care of myself."

Now, despite the terrible long-term prognosis, Prabhu is determined to make the most of life. He has always found comfort in music so a group of his friends gather at his house on Sundays to make music.

"I compose music ... I compose the beat of the song," Prabhu says. "My friend comes and he plays the keyboard ... we compose music for small jingles and small albums.

"As the doctor told me in another two to three years I will be totally paralysed and I won't be able to do anything at all .... But until then I can shake my hands, shake my legs you know ... I am a disabled person [but] I am stronger than anybody else."


Watch six one-hour episodes of a unique observational documentary Indian Hospital offering a rare insight into the complexities and dilemmas of modern India.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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