In 1997, Sneh Bansal, spouse of past president of the Rotary Club of Ambala, RID 3080, Subhash Bansal, was detected with cancer. He had to run from pillar to post for her treatment. Realising the trauma and misery that many had to undergo for treatment of cancer, Bansal decided to do something to provide care to such patients in Ambala, where no such facility was available. In 2003, with the assistance of Global Cancer Concern India and Rotary Club of Boca Raton, USA, a palliative care unit was established and cancer awareness camps were organised.
A palliative care team was formed and treatment was given to cancer patients free of cost and the club was able to mitigate their agony and pain. Several health camps, particularly for early detection of cancer in women, were held over a two-year period and 3,000 women were screened.
In 2005, Rotary’s Centennial year, the club decided to build a cancer detection and general hospital. In the first phase, about 10,000 sq ft was constructed with contributions from RC Ambala members. In 2010, the second phase was completed and the hospital became operational. Rtn Dr Jai Dev, the prime motivator of this project, contributed over Rs 8 crore, and the hospital was inaugurated in March 2010 by RI President Nominee Kalyan Banerjee.
Complicated surgeries pertaining to cancer and other specialties have been performed at the Rotary Ambala Cancer and General Hospital.
With RC Boca Raton coming on board as an international partner, some additional much-needed equipment was installed with several matching grants from The Rotary Foundation.
Currently, the hospital has 100 beds, a built-up area of 40,000 sq ft and is providing high quality healthcare in general surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, interventional cardiology, orthopaedics, ENT, radiology, physiotherapy, etc at an affordable cost to all sections of the community. Managed by RC Ambala Rotarians, it serves 250–300 outpatients every day.
A flying crusader
To upgrade the hospital in advanced medical care equipment, RC Ambala is now on an expansion project to build an additional 30,000 sq ft, so that another 50 beds and two additional operation theatres can be added and diagnostic equipment such as a CT scan and an MRI purchased.
The club has found a flying crusader in Ravi Bansal from RC Buffalo, New York, who is a retired entrepreneur. With a passion for flying, this pilot/owner of a Cessna 400 aircraft, has undertaken a one-man mission to raise $750,000 for some of the critical medical equipment required at this hospital. He has been flying solo around the world to not only raise these funds but also raise awareness on cancer detection and cure.
Bansal took off from Buffalo on July 4, and has flown over 20,000 nautical miles (23,000 miles) in 120 hours of flying time, stopping over at Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, England, France, Italy, Greece, Jordan, UAE, Oman, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Russia, Alaska and Canada. He was back in Buffalo on August 21. The first Indian to accomplish such a feat, he says he finds it hard to believe that his “dream for long years to do this Round-the-World trip has been realised and I have returned home safely.”
Apart from raising funds for cancer, to which he has lost his sister-in-law, his aim was also to play golf, drink and play his drums. “I’ve played five rounds of golf in a week and I’ve had enough to drink to last my lifetime,” Bansal told a Buffalo newspaper.
With a doctorate in mechanical engineering, he earlier owned AirSep, a medical oxygen therapy equipment company, which he sold for over $170 million three years ago. He has spent $100,000 of his own money on this solo flight. For Bansal, the best part of his trip was to return to his hometown of Ambala where he was allowed to land at the restricted Air Force Base, and given a warm reception in the city. He blogged about each leg of his trip on his website.
Of course the trip had its blips too; one was when he parked his aircraft in the scorching desert heat in the Middle East and returned to it to “find everything in the plane had almost melted.” While equipping himself with all the essentials required for this marathon journey, one thing he had forgotten to bring along was a window shade which would have cost him barely $20!
He thanks his extended family- wife Pratibha, sons Rohan and Nitin, brothers, sister and their families “for their unflinching support”, his logistics team Eddie Gold and Ahmed Hassan of GASE, friends in Buffalo, the new ones he made along the way, and “most of all God almighty who watched over me through the entire journey. Thank you all for helping make my dream come true. I love you all very much.”
The Erie County Legislature, Buffalo, feted him for his accomplishment and fund raising endeavour.
Bansal’s dream of flying solo around the world has come true but his target of raising $750,000 to fund the purchase of an MRI for the cancer hospital is still short. Over 200 donors have already donated around $160,000. He plans to raise the rest by visiting Rotary clubs and talking about his adventure and the cause for which it was undertaken.
(You can visit the website: http://raviworldflight.com/ to know more and support the funding for the RC Ambala Cancer Hospital. Bansal can be contacted at: email@example.com.)
The writer is a past RI Director, and member of RC Ambala, D 3080.