Ortho who tamed polio
When a man's body was being dissected as part of the practical classes for students of medicine, he ran away from the class, unable to see it. Digumarthy Gopalaswamy, who later became a renowned physician, took the lad back and literally forced him to sit through the practicals.
Little would have anyone realised at that time that the apprehensive youth would one day become a globally renowned orthopaedic surgeon and mitigate the sufferings of thousands of polio patients. He was Chavali Vyaghreswarudu, who had spent a greater part of his life for the welfare of polio victims and developed several innovative techniques in the treatment of the disease.
A symbol of sincerity and devotion, he was a highly religious minded individual. Born at Rajahmundry, he had his early education in his hometown. His father was an Ayurvedic doctor. He obtained his M.B.B.S. degree, M.S. in surgery and M.S. in orthopaedics from the Andhra Medical College.
He had many firsts to his credit. He was the first Professor of Orthopaedics in King George Hospital, after the formation of Andhra Pradesh; the first to establish the Orthopaedics Department in the State; the first in India to introduce `placental graft' technique for treatment of polio; and the first to develop `metallic guide' for the operation of subtrochanteric osteotomy and a guide for passing wire in Smith-Peterson nailing operation technique.
That was not all, he was the first in India and among the very few in the world to perform `half joint transplant at knee joint', the first in the country to conduct tibial osteotomy for osteo arthritis knee, the first to form the AP Chapter of Indian Orthopaedic Association, the first doctor to author a "Text book of Principles and Practice of Orthopaedics", considered the Bible for all post-graduate students, and the first to start an `Operation Polio Project' and the `Satya Sai Polio Trust' under the auspices of which he had conducted over 300 polio camps and examined 1.5 lakh patients and conducted 30,000 operations, providing all the services free of cost. He was instrumental in getting the M.S. Orthopaedics course offered by Andhra Medical College recognised at Liverpool in the UK.
In 1948, he went to Car Nicobar Islands and treated innumerable patients, who were affected by the outbreak of a polio epidemic. In recognition of his good work, he was awarded the World Health Organisation fellowship for higher training in the US in 1949. In 1954, he got an award at the Third International Polio Conference at Rome. In 1956, he became a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons and in 1965, he became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the National Academy of Medical Sciences.
Vyaghreswarudu retired from Government service in 1972, but continued to serve the poor polio patients through the various polio camps conducted in different parts of the country. Seeing his good work, philanthropists came forward and donated generously for organising the free camps.
He received his training from the first Professor of Orthopaedics of KGH, Mangalampalli Gopal Kini. The Rani of Chemudu Estate, Rani Chandramani Devi, used to take treatment from Dr. Kini for her backache. Dr. Kini shifted to Bombay and worked for the Ismail Trust. He set up a hospital for polio patients there.
Rani Chandramani Devi used to visit him in Bombay for her treatment. She appealed to him to set up a similar hospital in Visakhapatnam. Dr. Kini suggested to her that she could donate some of her land for construction of a hospital. When she wondered as to who would take the over the responsibility of managing the hospital, he suggested the name of Dr. Vyaghreswarudu, who was doing extremely good work in the treatment of polio patients.
Thus, the Rani Chandramani Devi (RCD) Government Hospital came into existence. The hospital grew from strength to strength under his direction. It attracted patients from far away Gujarat, Rajasthan and other parts of the country, which was an indication of the good services rendered by doctors and staff. Vyaghreswarudu started conducting free polio camps in different States for the benefit of patients.
His disciple, S.V. Adinarayana Rao, used to assist him at the free camps. During one such camps, in the early phase of his career, he asked his guru as to what he was getting out of the free services. Vyagreshwarudu smiled at him and looked at the patients who were benefited by his service.
The gratitude in the eyes of the patients towards their `God' said it all. It did not take long for Dr. Adinarayana Rao to realise that "No amount of money can give anyone so much satisfaction".
Recalls he: "Vyaghreswarudu did not save enough money for himself and never bothered about his future. He used to donate generously to the Prema Samajam and to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Perhaps, his association with the RSS had come in the way of his getting the Padmasri."
A bust of this `refuge of polio patients' has been installed at the Orthopaedics Department of KGH.
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