Viviksha, an 11-month-old baby girl from Vellore in a pretty white dress with red and blue flowers and a million-dollar smile, is a delightful sight. Until her mother shows you the scar on the baby’s back you cannot tell that she has braved a lifesaving spine surgery. She, along with five other infants, was felicitated at the launch of Project Thalirgal, a joint initiative by RC Madras North, RI District 3232, TRF, Tamil Nadu Government and Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, to provide free corrective surgeries for congenital abnormalities in the spine and brain of newborns.
Give liberally to the Foundation as it funds our service projects — projects that eradicate polio, promote peace, and develop communities. These smiling children are proof that your money is making a difference.
— Gulam Vahanvaty, TRF Trustee
TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty, appreciated the club’s effort “in partnering with the government and successfully performing free surgeries on 39 babies with support from the hospital.” He appealed to the Rotarians to give liberally to the Foundation as it funds “our service projects — projects that eradicate polio, promote peace, and develop communities. These smiling children are proof that your money is making a difference.”
Dr G Balamurali, senior consultant and neurosurgeon at the Kauvery Hospital, who is leading this project, says one in 1,000 newborns could suffer from spine and brain deformities. Such children suffer from poor IQ and disability and could become wheelchair-bound later on. “There are challenges in the treatment of babies with brain deformities. But it is reassuring to know that newborns with this defect are getting quality care thanks to TRF and the State government.”
He adds, “For parents with infants in the ICU, the doctors and nursing staff often become their family members as they work earnestly to save the life of their children.”
As the cackle of 8-month-old Riyan resonates through the room, spreading smiles and cheer all around, fighting back her tears Riyan’s mother says, “we heard him cry restlessly for months; but now this cackle is music to our ears.”
Tamil Nadu Health Minister Dr Vijaya Baskar, who was the chief guest, appreciated Rotary’s role in “helping the underprivileged families and giving a new lease of life to babies with congenital abnormalities. I congratulate and thank all the Rotarians in this room who made this possible.”
PDG G Olivannan, who was instrumental in bringing the international partners — Linda (District 6060, USA), Dushan Soza (Distict 3220, Sri Lanka), James Roxlo (District 6780, USA) and Rick Creasy President of RC Bradley Sunrise, Cleveland — urged the Rotarians to ensure that this medical project continues “so that we can save as many babies as possible.” Besides paediatric surgeries, Project Thalirgal, costing ₹34 lakh, will be educating and training professionals to detect brain and spine birth defects in the foetus at an early stage of pregnancy and create awareness among pregnant women on preventing congenital birth defects.
Pictures: Kiran Zehra