News / Asia

Indian Surgeon Helping Polio Patients Take First Steps

Indian Surgeon Helping Polio Patients Take First Stepsi
X
October 09, 2013 4:33 PM
India is getting close to marking its third year without a new recorded polio case, setting the stage for the South Asian country to be officially declared polio-free in January. While much has been done to immunize infants against the disease, millions of people are living with polio, unable to live a normal life. One surgeon is working to change that. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from New Delhi.
Aru Pande
India is getting close to marking its third year without a new recorded polio case, setting the stage for the country to be officially declared polio-free in January. While much has been done to immunize infants against the disease, millions of people are living with polio, unable to live a normal life.

But one surgeon is working to change that. 

At one of New Delhi’s oldest hospitals, in the only designated polio ward in all of India, patients like Abida Khatoon have only one goal.

“I can stand and walk," Khatoon said. "I just need a little help, and soon I won’t need that as well. Soon, I will be able to walk on my own.”

It took two months of surgery and rehabilitation at St. Stephen’s Hospital for Khatoon to achieve her life-long dream of being able to walk.

She and other young women in this eight-bed ward credit Dr. Mathew Varghese, an orthopedic surgeon who has devoted his entire career to restoring mobility and dignity to those left crippled by the poliovirus that invades the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.

“All these girls have been crawling, except for this one, all the others have been crawling," Varghese said. "The other muscles are very weak. They have never had the opportunity to stand on their two feet. For the first time in their lives - like this girl is paralyzed at six months -- she has never been able to stand on her two feet.”

As India gets closer to officially being declared polio-free, the effect of the massive immunization effort can be seen in the hospital, with Varghese now mostly treating people in their early twenties as opposed to young children some two decades ago.

In 1990, New Delhi alone saw 3,000 new polio cases. Now that number is zero.The trend is reflected here at this polio ward, where at its peak it saw 600 patients annually. Now that number is down to fewer than 200.
 
Rotary International has been on the frontline of India’s polio eradication efforts and helps fund reconstructive surgeries at St. Stephen’s.  Former Rotary President Rajendra Saboo saw the need to give polio patients a second chance at a normal life during a trip to a village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

“Then another child came, also crawling," said Saboo. "And I said ‘what is happening to these children?’ They seem to have been struck by polio. And the villagers said, ‘no, no, no, just forget them, they are dust.’”
 
But Rotary and Varghese did not forget them. Patients hear about the ward and travel to New Delhi from across India in hopes of correcting bent legs and feet. No one is turned away.

After weeks in the hospital, 19-year-old Abida Khartoon is getting ready to go home to her village in Uttar Pradesh.

“If I had only met Dr. Varghese earlier, I wouldn’t have had as much hardship in life," she said. "My hands wouldn’t be so calloused [from using them to get around]. Because of him, I am doing better," she said tearfully.
 
But Khartoon is not the only one brought to tears. When asked what this surgeon’s dream is -- the answer was simple.
 
 “My dream," he asked, trying to choke back his own tears. "This ward should be empty. No polio."

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Sethi from: London
October 17, 2013 3:43 AM
Well done Dr. Varghese, proud of humans like you. Living for others and not just for self.

by: Nazeem khan from: Mumbai
October 17, 2013 12:14 AM
Dr. Varghese and people like him are true children of God. Life has a purpose and Dr. Varghese has discovered his. God bless him.

by: Keen from: Philippines
October 12, 2013 2:35 AM
It takes only one unselfish individual to do a simple act of charity to change the world...This doctor might be nobody in India's vast population but to those lives he has changed, he is their HOPE...

by: Rajratna Phadtare from: Mumbai,Mharashtra,India
October 10, 2013 8:53 AM
Great efforts done by Dr Vargehese. Its a very important role he is playing in the medical field. India Need more devoted practitioner in the medical sector. ,The need of such doctors are there where villagers,poor people those who are not able to get proper medical treatment.Thank you Dr. Vargehese.
Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs