Strong Roots, Tall Shoots

by Yash Pandya

Hmmm, let’s see... I have two options here. I can either spend the summer traveling, or working at Polio Foundation in my native, beautiful homeland of India. Tough choice. What should I do? In retrospect, I am quite glad about how I made my choice.

Polio Foundation is a courageous effort to offer low-cost consultations, treatments and surgical corrections for conditions such as poliomyelitis (polio) and cerebral palsy. Located in the vibrant city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, India, Polio Foundation has greatly expanded its initial mission of serving patients with polio to also treating ailments such as cerebral palsy, diabetes and its complications, along with procedures that include kidney dialysis and reconstructive plastic surgery. With the support of the state government and private donors, this institution works selflessly to relieve these difficulties A cerebral palsy patient undergoing physiotherapy 18 of those who are not otherwise able to afford treatment.

While treatments for both polio and cerebral palsy are highlighted at Polio Foundation, there are some key differences between the diseases. Polio primarily involves problems with body movement due to deficits in the spinal cord, while cerebral palsy is a form of brain malfunction induced during, before, or immediately after birth that can lead to issues with body movement as well as brain development. In both of these conditions, movement is impaired, moderately or severely affecting the ability of the patient to function independently.

The medical staff at Polio Foundation commits to the role of helping patients journey from illness towards recovery. The staff ’s willingness to help their patients understand the importance of effective treatment goals makes all the difference in patient compliance. To illustrate, Polio Foundation provides two to three afternoons of free physician consultations every week to patients afflicted with polio. Orthopedic surgeons altruistically donate their hours for these interactions. Similarly, individuals with conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy (progressive musculoskeletal function decline) are cared for by orthopedic surgeons who specialize in their management.

In conjunction with the delivery of medical care, the administrative affairs streamline the entire process for the comfort and ease of the patients. From the solid infrastructure to the safe ambiance, Polio Foundation has become a mecca for patients in need of care and support.

One Monday afternoon’s two-hour-long clinic consisted of 50 patients, a higher than usual number of consultations. When several patients were left unchecked at the end of the two-hour duration, the orthopedic surgeons stayed overtime to see through to the completion of the check-ups, making any further arrangements at their own private clinics.

The attention given to each patient showcases the staff ’s commitment at Polio Foundation. Their indifference to financial compensation reinforces compassion and selfless service as building blocks in the medical field. Furthermore, the manner of staff conduct reflects the fundamental skills for supporting the health and wellbeing of the patient, always making the patient the first priority. Observing procedures in the surgical wing of the institution can solidify a resolute appreciation for Polio Foundation’s service. Equipped with a stainless steel modular operation theater and an expert surgical team, the operating room inspires a sense of confidence and trust for the patients. World-class surgeons perform life-changing procedures ranging from clubfoot and joint deformity corrections for polio patients to muscle release and lengthening procedures for cerebral palsy patients.

Everyday, wide smiles adorn the faces of the surgical patients as they see their straightened limbs for the very first time upon recovering from anesthesia, bringing great joy and satisfaction to the treating surgeons. The gratitude reflected on the patients’ faces demonstrates how the ambition of improving the lives of those suffering from debilitating illnesses is being accomplished gradually, yet formatively, at Polio Foundation.

While I am here in the United States, going about my routine college life, I frequently reminisce about the rural patient just finding out about a surgical procedure to correct his or her deformed limb, and I am filled with happiness and appreciation for such a noble cause. I eagerly look forward to returning to India and to see firsthand the new heights Polio Foundation will reach through its strong roots and confident passion.