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Polio eradication is his mission

B. Madhu GopalB. MADHU GOPAL

Dr. Adinarayana Rao - Photo: K.R. Deepak

A youth was attacked with a knife by two others on a main road in broad daylight. The attackers fled the scene, leaving the victim profusely bleeding. It was a busy junction and people were moving all around but no one volunteered to shift him to a hospital.

A well-known doctor, whose hospital was located just opposite the scene of the tragedy, came to know of it. He immediately alerted his staff and rushed out on to the main road. The staff put the youth on a stretcher and was shifting him to the hospital, when the victim breathed his last.

The incident had occurred on the Rama Talkies Main Road very recently. The doctor referred to here is the director general of the Prema Hospitals, Sunkara Venkata Adinarayana Rao, the mention of whose name evokes respect in polio patients and their families in different parts of the country and also abroad.

His adherence to three principles: social justice, social responsibility and social service, endeared him to the masses. The spirit of service was ingrained in him right from his childhood and it was further strengthened following his close encounters with polio patients in his later life.

Born in Bhimavaram town in West Godavari district, Dr. Adinarayana Rao, had his early education at the ULCM High School. "The boarders used to wear only one pair of uniform for the whole week, while I had more pairs to spare. I used to give my shirts to them", he recalls. He did his M.B.B.S. in 1966 and M.S. (Ortho) in 1970 from Andhra Medical College.

His parents, Kanakam and Seshamma, were both freedom fighters. They taught him that serving the needy was more important than monetary gains. His wife, R. Sashiprabha, is the superintendent of the King George Hospital. His brother, the well-known neuro surgeon, Balaparameswara Rao, from whom he draws inspiration, is also a famous musician. "In those days when sophisticated gadgets were scarce, he had a high success rate in treating head injuries. The mortality rate of his patients was a mere one per cent. But he felt that even that one per cent was 100 per cent at the family-level, which reflects his dedication to duty", recalls Adinarayana Rao.

He used to accompany and assist his guru, the late Vyaghreswarudu, at the free orthopaedic camps conducted by the latter in different states of India. Initially, he used to ask his guru as to what he was getting out of doing free service. But later on seeing the gratitude in the eyes of patients and their kith and kin, he realised that no amount of money could give one so much satisfaction.

He recalls, "There is a girl in a village near Guntur. Being lame, she used to walk placing her right hand on her right leg for support. She was the only person in the entire village, which had a population of about 3000 people, to walk like that. The villagers used to tease her and cause mental agony. Dr. Vyaghreswarudu was against operating on her as she was able to walk. However, I suggested that we could boost her self-esteem and he agreed".

"When we tried to correct the deformity, the bone broke. We plastered the broken bone and straightened her leg. When she was healed, the girl went back to her village and the first thing she did was to curse the villagers who teased her and threatened to kick them with the same leg".

This incident left an indelible mark on Dr. Adinarayana Rao. The behaviour of the girl was understandable. Her outburst was the result of years of silent suffering. After the death of his guru, he continued to hold the free orthopaedic camps for the benefit of the polio-afflicted.

After retiring as Superintendent of the Rani Chandramani Devi Hospital, Dr. Adinarayana Rao along with a few other like-minded friends set up the Prema Hospital at Ramnagar. It has a full-fledged operation theatre, which has the facility to operate on nine patients simultaneously. Dormitory facilities for patients and their escorts, a community kitchen and subsidised canteen facility are also provided at the hospital.

The dormitories are full most of the time and the patients squat on the open places in front of the hospital building, eagerly awaiting their turn. The hospital attracts patients not only from different states of India but also some from abroad.

"We follow a three-tier system in the treatment of patients. The very poor patients are given free treatment, free food, free tickets to and fro, and pocket money to meet incidental expenses. The middle class, who form 75 per cent of the patients, are given 45 to 50 per cent concession while the rich are charged full amount besides they have to help four poor patients by paying a minimum of Rs.10,000. This amount would be utilised to conduct free operations for the poor".

He feels the pulse polio programme should be made mandatory for its complete success. In the absence of such a regulation, some communities were not going for administration of polio drops to their kids due to the myth that it will affect the potency of the children. In Uttar Pradesh alone, over 1,000 new polio cases have been detected recently.

Dr. Adinarayana Rao has several awards to his credit but treasures the `Diwaliben Mohanlal Mehta Award' for the selfless services rendered to the physically handicapped, the National Award for the best service in the field of welfare of the disabled given by the Prime Minister in 1998, the Madras Telugu Academy Award, and the National Award of the Mahaveer Foundation, the most.

"Regaining the lost shape and stability in patients is my motto," says Dr. Adinarayana Rao, who has operated upon over 2.5 lakh patients and performed around 10 lakh operative procedures during the last three decades. "My dream is to see a polio free India," he says and given his hard work and determination one can be sure that they are not mere dreams.

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