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Updated: February 23, 2011 18:57 IST

Making a difference: Looking beyond

SOMA BASU
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COMMITTED: Dr. J. Sudhakaran. Photo: Soma Basu.
The Hindu
COMMITTED: Dr. J. Sudhakaran. Photo: Soma Basu.

How JK MAASS Foundation is strengthening disability rehabilitation

It is not often that people study medicine and think beyond practicing their chosen discipline in Government or private sector. It requires a brave heart to look beyond out-patient or routine clinical practice and build a bridge between the medical community and the patient.

Physiotherapists -- usually attached to hospitals -- are supposed to work closely with physicians, surgeons, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists, besides the family members of the patient to complete the healthcare team. They are the exercise and mobility specialists whose aim is to successfully return an affected person to an independent mobile life. 

After finishing his Bachelor's Degree in Physiotherapy, Master's in Psychology and Diploma in Counselling, when Dr.J.Sudhakaran took up the job of a physiotherapist with Quality Care Hospital in Ellis Nagar in 1999, he came across a variety of acute, sub-acute and chronic patients affected by paralysis.

“I used to go on house visits for post-operative/treatment physiotherapy for patients with neurological disorders and found that most of them could not follow the regime as prescribed. I could see the failed therapy due to lack of proper support system in terms of family environment, surroundings, members and space. Most of these patients were vegetating more than they should have perhaps,” shares Dr.Sudhakaran.

The fate and sight of these people set him thinking on the possibilities of taking “rehabilitation a step forward”. “I discussed the idea with my parents who instantly and whole-heartedly supported me. I feel we all should do some selfless service to the society”

And so, JK MAASS (Jeyaram Karpagavalli Multipurpose Activities and Social Services) Foundation was started as a small out-patient clinic named after his parents) in 2002 for providing intensive physiotherapy and follow-up in an organized manner to patients with any sort of back, neck, shoulder, knee, wrist, elbow pain or any other physical ailment.

A decade on not only has it grown enormously but also stands out as the lone organization in the city running an exclusive physiotherapy out patient unit besides a special school for poor children affected by cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

As the Director of the Foundation, Dr.Sudhakaran rues that most physiotherapists fail to focus on special training. “Mobility in a patient is gained faster and better through sustained physiotherapy and therapeutic exercise but there is a slack in the approach.” It is essential for physiotherapists to utilize their knowledge and services properly.

Besides the out patient at the JK Physiotherapy Hospital and Research Centre which has benefited thousands of patients over the years, the special “Able Kids” school, too has grown from two to 60 students. JKMF has been selected as one of the six centres in Tamil Nadu for starting a new State Government project on muscular dystrophy and also identified as State level resource training organization. Under the TN Government's ‘Vazhnthu Kattuvom' project, it provides capacity building and skill development training to persons with disabilities in rural areas.

The Foundation also runs a community based rural outreach programme, chips in the integrated education for differently abled children in 11 city schools under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan programme

All this leaves Dr.Sudhakaran with little free time. “I am still fighting lack of awareness among people. People either don't go for post-operative therapies as advised and end up with different types of pain or are unable to identify delayed milestones in a child and then are forced to go for corrective measures. Whereas, in both situations, proper identification, timely intervention and training are required and helps significantly.”

“Only when people are aware rehabilitation is widely ensured and individuals with disability are able to surpass all barriers to attain their development. We want to promote awareness on disability rehabilitation. Through our outreach programme ‘Sooryodhayam” in 40 villages, we have succeeded in early identification and intervention.”

It is imperative that “clinical reasoning” takes over in physiotherapists rather than simple copy book medical treatment.  Dearth of volunteers and trainers made Dr.Sudhakaran turn the role models among the caretakers of his patients into volunteers. “Having gone through sad and bitter experiences themselves, they are the best to explain and inspire others,” he believes.

“Apart from providing high standard physiotherapy treatment for various physical problems with well-equipped modern electro equipment, our volunteers and staff continuously drive home the importance of physiotherapy to prevent secondary complications,” he says.

Physios need to be proactive, practical, hands-on and energetic since they need to swing into action quickly for better results in their patients. It is all about compassion and being involved with the person – and not just being involved in a money-making enterprise.

Says Dr.Sudhakaran most humbly: “We can make a living from what we get. But more importantly, we can make a life by what we give.”

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to somabasu@thehindu.co.in to tell about someone you know who is making a difference)

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