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A lay-person, without a medical or science background, lacking formal education in literature or journalism – I am probably the most ill-qualified author for this book! But I am very glad, I was chosen by the Doctor (Krishnaswami) couple to write about their ‘Labour of Love’ spread over four and a half decades. I may not deserve the honour and privilege but I have to admit to my selfishness in grabbing this opportunity to write about the selfless team at the VHS Diabetes Department that has done yeomen service to the cause of the underprivileged juvenile diabetics.
I have always known that I have been very lucky and privileged all my life. I have also felt anguished about the teeming millions in our country who are suffering under the burden of poverty, illiteracy and ill-health. But the past couple of weeks when I have been gathering material for this book have been an eye-opener and a humbling experience for me.
My father has been a diabetic, C/0 Dr. C.V.Krishnaswami (CVK), for over three decades now. All along, I was under the impression that diabetes is not a killer-disease and can be easily managed and controlled with proper diet, exercise and a few pills! When Dr.CVK made a distinction between Juvenile Diabetes (type 1 diabetes) and my father’s condition (type 2) and explained the ramifications thereof I was truly pained and shocked.
As Dr.CVK narrated the life story of each of his little patients, the magnitude of suffering came to the fore. Not only were these children challenged in terms of health, they (and their families) had to bear the burden of poverty and social stigma! Difficult to imagine, how these children cope with family circumstances apart from stoically putting up with daily injections and blood-tests and going through the motions of life!
Moving on to the other side of the picture, I was dumbstruck when I witnessed first-hand the magnitude and gamut of services rendered at the VHS Diabetes Department to this underprivileged community. Many of us have been aware of the fact that Preface Dr. CVK is one of a kind. We have always admired him for his humanistic approach to medicine, selfless passion to serve mankind, and an insatiable desire to discover, learn and impart knowledge. What distinguishes him from other eminent doctors is his dedication, simplicity, humility, ‘approachability’ and ability to listen to the patient (One could ask the silliest of questions and get profound answers from him!) But I must confess that I had no clue that he and his family members (including the extended family - VHS Diabetes Department) have invested so much of their own lives and have been selflessly supporting the challenged children and their families to mitigate their sufferings, in all facets of life! The Krishnaswamis have silently toiled - ceaselessly and tirelessly - and have always shied away from publicity. Having closely observed the happenings in the lives of some of these children for merely two weeks, I can appreciate the fact that after ‘living’ amongst these hapless children for 44 years, Dr. CVK wants to get on with research to quickly find a substitute for Insulin.
I therefore request readers to pardon me for getting carried away more by the emotional and human aspects of the story. I do realize that the tendency to capitalize on ‘poetic licence’ has been overpowering. As a lay-person, Juvenile Diabetes per se and attending medical complications, are beyond me, and I may have tended to over-simplify the medical aspects. Except for Lily’s story (Chapter 1) I have refrained from laying stress on the medical facts, symptoms and diagnosis. (Doctors- please excuse!)
Needless to say, all the stories in this book are true-stories. However, the names of the protagonists (especially the girls) have been changed (except in the case of Abdul in ‘Life or Livelihood?’) to conceal their identity for obvious reasons.
I am told that in comparison to India, Japan and in the Orient, the prevalence of Juvenile Diabetes is many times higher in the Western world. Its incidence is also increasing by leaps and bounds every decade in Western countries.
Research conducted, during the last century, resulted in the discovery of insulin 90 years ago. Let us hope and pray that the truly funded cooperative research conducted in our country at the TAG-VHS Diabetes Research Centre, would result in similar breakthroughs to help the insulin dependent diabetic children across the globe, live a life without insulin.
Is our society ready to provide wholehearted support to this venture? Are the NGOs in the voluntary sector willing to participate in a new paradigm in medical research? Are the Governmental organizations geared up to participate, by shaking off all commercial goals?
At this juncture, I would like to once again thank Dr. CVK & Dr. Prema for reposing their trust and confidence in me to undertake this venture that is so close to their hearts. I have no doubt the like Abou Ben Adhem, “as one who loves his fellow men" in the list of those whom “love of God had blessed”, Dr. CVK’s name will lead all the rest!
Wishing the TAG-VHS Research Project all success!
Priya Ravi
Chennai – March 2011
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