Unsung Angels: Chennai and Bangalore

Healthcare for the underprivileged

Dr Georgi Abraham provides free treatment for the poor

Lakshmi Kumaraswami | TNN


new-picture-93 Ask Dr Georgi Abraham, leading nephrologist in the city, about the work he does for the underprivileged and what one sees is a picture of humility. “Everyone does something good for the society. It’s our duty,” he says. For over a decade, he has been treating economically disadvantaged patients for free.
Dr Abraham began the service in 1993, when he came back to India after completing specialising in nephrology in Canada. “I had been to Kuwait, Canada and the UK, where medical care was free and taken care of by the state. Then I thought of the number of patients who would come to seek treatment for kidney disease when I was doing my medicine in Vellore in 1975,” he says. That’s when he decided that he would give poor patients free treatment whether it was for a consultation, dialysis or transplant at Madras Medical Mission and, till recently, at Sri Ramachandra Medical College, from where he has now retired. “I request the hospital to give a subsidy and then ask well-wishers to pitch in,” says Abraham, who gives a part of his income every month for the cause.
According to him, kidney failure is a rich man’s disease and costs at least Rs 10,000 a month to keep it under control. He adds that the CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) Registry of India, which has data on 35,990 patients, shows that 38 % of the patients have a monthly income of less than Rs 5000. “Most of the time, the patient is either retired or extremely poor. A few days ago, a patient from Pondicherry came to consult me; he was virtually penniless,” he states.
Abraham doesn’t know how many patients he has treated free of cost so far. “Some days there will be six patients, some days none. I have stopped counting,” he says. To help with his cause, he was instrumental in setting up two NGOs — the TANKER Foundation in 1993 and Kerala Kidney Foundation in 2006 — both of which provides dialysis for free or at subsidised rates for the underprivileged and also gives them financial support for treatment.

He adds that to help with the cause, the number of nephrologists in the country needs to increase. “There is a major brain drain when it comes to nephrology. Every year 200,000 people go in for terminal kidney failure and we have only 850 nephrologists to tackle this,” says Abraham who is on the board of the International Society of Nephrology.
However, the doctor feels that moral support for the patients is as important as medical support. “Most people think there is no life after kidney failure. When patients tell me this, I tell them the story of Dr Robin Eady, who at 68 is the longest surviving patient with kidney failure in the world. He never gave up and neither should they,” he says.

Hoping for a better future

Hope Home helps underprivileged kids from North-East

Darinia Khongwir | TNN

new-picture-92 Satkholen Ngamsai is just 11 years old. But he’s already seen so much in life. Now, thanks to Hope Home, he’s regained his childhood. Brought here by his uncle from a village in Manipur in 2005, Satkholen has not been home since. He has neither seen nor spoken to his father or siblings. But the love and care he receives is enough to inspire him to become a pastor like his caretaker he lovingly calls uncle.

The uncle is Pastor Obed Haokip, who started Hope Home in 2001 along with his wife Chong with seven children under their roof. Now, there are 32 kids, including three girls. “When trouble arose in Manipur, many parents sent their children to study here. At first, I tried placing the children in other homes, but they were not looked after properly. That’s when I decided to open my own home,” says Pastor Obed. He adds that this home is exclusively for NE children.

Hope Home was initially set up in the pastor’s house. The family along with the children slept in all of the three rooms in it. Now they’ve moved to a bigger house in Kothanur. “Though we still have space constraints, the children are not complaining,” says Pastor Obed.

The children are in Bangalore only to study. “Parents send me their children, but can’t support them. I depend a lot on philanthropists,” says Obed. The kids attend Parikrama and New Baldwin’s School. “Some study free of cost and others on concessions. Two older boys are in PUC in the Indian Academy College and Kristu Jayanti College.”

Currently, Hope Home can only help educate kids up to Class 12. “I want to provide education till they can support themselves.After Class 12,they can pick up some skills that can help them find work.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for these talented children. Five of them who were in Class 1 when they arrived in 2005, finished Class 10 in seven years.

The boys excel in sports too. Henginlen Chongloi and Lamthang Haokip were selected for Karnataka state football team. Jamsei Touthang, 16, won the Karnataka Governor’s Award in the 2007 Republic Day for sports and academic excellence. Neineilam, 16, is exceptional.

She led her school in the Independence Day March Pass and won third place in 2005 and accepted the award from the then chief minister Dharam Singh. The achievements prove that there is, indeed, hope.

(Tell us about similar initiatives at toiblr.reporter@timesgroup.com with ‘Sunshine Schemes’ in the subject line)

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