Satish Meena, 18, vividly remembers the ten days he spent in the neurosurgery ward at KEM Hospital. He was eight years old and was suffering from spinal dysraphism, a rare congenital spinal malformation, which could have led to paralysis of his legs. It was in June 2001 that Dr Aadil Chagla, a neurosurgery professor at KEM Hospital, operated on Meena.
Ten years after the crucial surgery, Meena knocked at Dr Chagla's cabin door in the hospital a week ago to announce he is now a first-year medical student at the Seth GS Medical College attached to KEM Hospital. "I wanted to meet the man who saved my life," said Meena.
Meena's father, Ramswaroop, 44, a head ticket collector with Western Railway, is a proud man. "Satish was born ten years after our marriage. He was born with a knot in his spine and had to immediately undergo an operation. After the initial surgery, doctors said he either not survive or would have a lifelong disability," said Ramswaroop.
In 1993, doctors at Wadia Children's Hospital closed the spinal defect. But his twisted spine still needed correction. Doctors recommended KEM hospital. "His spinal cord was low lying. I had to reconstruct his dural sleeve (the covering of the spine) and disentangle the conus cauda (the end of the spine) so that the spine could ascend normally," said Dr Chagla. Meena was back in school within a month. "I decided that if my child survives he would become a doctor," said Ramswaroop.
Meena now walks with a slight limp and had incontinence as a child. "I used to wear plastic underwear. But I was never teased because I was a scholar. The other students always needed me," said Meena.
This year, Meena cracked the medical entrance test and got through Grant Medical College attached to JJ Hospital in the physically handicapped category. But Meena wanted to study at KEM Hospital, and got through in a subsequent admission round. "I want to be either a pediatrician or a pediatric surgeon," he said.