Friday, 20 January 2017

The story of a blue baby and the Kali Yuga Avatar

Thondapu Arun Kumar relaxed as he steered the car onto the AH-43 and headed towards Puttaparthi. The traffic snarls at Bengaluru had been left behind and it would now be a smooth and speedy drive towards the abode of highest peace - Prasanthi Nilayam.

Arun always wanted to be at His Lotus feet. Swami proudly blesses him when
he secured a high All-India rank in the GATE CSIR examinations.
Arun was a regular at the abode of his Swami, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, ever since 1998 when he had enrolled for grade XI in the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. In the 9 years that followed as a ‘Sai-Student’, he had completed his schooling, under-graduation, post-graduation and an MTech degree from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Even after embarking on his career path, he had made it a point to regularly visit Puttaparthi to pay obeisance and gratitude to his God and Master. But this visit in the September of 2015 had an added agenda. Arun had come to pray to Swami to bless him and his wife, Keerthi, with a child. That was the prayer he made as he knelt at the Sai Sannidhi, the sepulchre also called as the Mahasamadhi of Baba.

Trying to conceive a child is probably one of the most fertile events to make one realize the truth in the Bhagawad Gita's statement by Lord Krishna,
Karmanyavadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachana
(You have the rights over action alone and not over the fruits of action).
In the true sense, one can never ‘plan’ a baby. The baby happens when it is supposed to happen irrespective of the intensity of efforts (or its apparent lack) thereof. And so, every child, whether conceived naturally, in vitro or adopted, is in fact the gift of God!

For Arun and Keerthi, the wait after the prayer was very short. In October 2015 itself they got to know that Keerthi was carrying a baby and their joy knew no bounds. Arun was sure that the baby was Swami’s gift to them. Keerthi was convinced that it was God’s gift; she wasn’t sure about giving the credit entirely to her husband’s ‘Swami’ who she considered as a good human being. Arun was not bothered. He knew that just like the baby, faith in Swami also would happen when it was supposed to happen. As of now, the couple celebrated the gift of love that had been bestowed on them and began preparations for the delivery 40 weeks down the line. As the baby grew, so did their eagerness and joy.

But all that came to a sudden halt in the middle of January 2016 as the New Year heralded dreadful news.

Transposition of the Great Arteries

The routine ultrasound anomaly scan that Keerthi underwent in Hyderabad took an unusually long time to get completed. Arun noticed that the doctor was keenly observing one particular portion of the scan repeatedly. He sensed that something was not alright. His feelings turned out to be true.

“The foetus is exhibiting a transposition of the great arteries”, the doctor said, which is a defect due to the improper development of the fetal heart...We don’t know why this happens exactly... It is a random occurrence, by chance, but it needs urgent attention.”

Arun and Keerthi looked at each other in bewilderment. The doctor explained it as simply as possible.
“See, there are 4 chambers in the heart. The upper two chambers (auricles) receive blood while the lower two chambers (ventricles) pump it. Circulation of blood happens like this - Blood is pumped from the right ventricle to the lungs via the Pulmonary Artery. This blood gets oxygen and returns to the left auricle and falls into left ventricle. From there, it is pumped to the whole body via the Aorta. In your baby, the Aorta and Pulmonary Artery connections have interchanged. So the good oxygenated blood is circulating in a loop between the heart and lungs while the bad de-oxygenated blood is stuck in a separate loop between the heart and the rest of the body.”
TGA explained diagrammatically
She paused for a moment to allow the couple to digest all that.
“The baby will need life-support as soon as it is born because there is no way oxygen supply can reach the body. There is also a high risk of some abnormality or retardation in the child which we cannot predict now. Usually, in such cases, the parents decide the drop the baby.”

“No!” screamed Keerthi within herself. She could not even imagine aborting her child. For Arun also, dropping the baby was intuitively out of question.
“This is Swami’s gift to us...”, he thought. 
He told the doctor after a while,
“If abortion is not an option for us, what is the alternative?”
“In such cases, there is a chance of multiple complications. I would suggest further genetic tests to rule out other possible problems.”
“Thank you doctor. We shall leave now.”
Both of them were shocked and upset. It felt as though a mountain had fallen on their heads. They decided to seek a second opinion, a third opinion, a fourth one and even a tenth one if need be.

The multiple visits to multiple doctors did not yield too much hope. The best case scenario was an afflicted baby while the worst scenario involved letting the baby die after delivery! After three days of running around, some optimism blew their way in the form of Dr. Suresh, a neonatologist.
“If you ask me, this is a battle that can be won. So don’t lose heart...”

That hardened Arun’s resolve to fight with all his heart. It also made Keerthi decide to seek her husband’s God - Sri Sathya Sai - for help.

Bhagawan sends His assurance

It was natural for Arun to seek medical opinion from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS) in Bangalore. The divine arrangement had ensured that a cardiac conference was on and Dr. Krishna Manohar, an excellent pediatric cardiac surgeon was available for consultation.
“We will do our best and Swami will take care of the rest.” he said and added, “It should not be a problem at all to operate on the child immediately after birth. After all it is Swami’s child...”
Thus a plan seemed to evolve. Rush the baby to SSSIHMS, Swami’s hospital, immediately after birth and have the corrective cardiac surgery performed there.

Swami also arranged a wonderful gynaecologist for Keerthi at the famous Ovum hospital in Bengaluru. Then, He gave a personal reassurance to the stricken mother when He visited her in a dream in April.

Keerthi is in the interview room with several other people. Swami is dressed in a white robe as He enters the room and sits. Keerthi rushes to Him, holds His hand and starts weeping inconsolably. Swami is very calm. He pats her on the head and blesses her with the Abhayahasta (the blessing conferring fearlessness) and then tells,
“Don’t you worry about anything. I will take care of everything.”
He then speaks to others in the room before telling Keerthi in the end,
“Operation on the 8th (or was it 18th?).”

Keerthi woke up feeling very strong and good. She had no doubts in her heart about Swami’s divinity and joined Arun in praying to Him alone. In fact, the Sai Gayatri became her constant companion along with the Sri Sathya Sai Ashtothram. However, she was not able to recollect properly whether Swami mentioned 8th or 18th. The 10th of June was the date given for delivery and she assumed that Swami had indicated the baby’s surgery to be on 18th.

Arun received an academic gold medal from his dear Swami's hands when he graduated. Keerthi felt as joyous as him
on that day when she received a dream of Swami in the same colored robe.

Pleasure is an interval between two pains

The SSSIHMS at Bangalore does a lot of paediatric cases though it does not specialise in cases involving hours-old babies. Keerthi would be delivering a “blue baby” (an infant born with a bluish colour due to abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the circulating blood, usually due to one or more defects of the heart or great vessels) which would require a highly specialised paediatric ventilator. At exactly this time, there was some technical issue in the paediatric ventilator at SSSIHMS and Arun was informed that it would be better that they seek assistance from a specialised paediatric hospital.

It was not as if the surgery could not be done in SSSIHMS but why take even 1% risk? Arun had become very averse to taking the slightest chances. After all, hadn’t his baby been afflicted with TGA though only 0.025% of babies suffer from it?

Therefore, this news came as a very hard blow on Arun and Keerthi. More than anything else, they felt that they were being ‘evicted’ from Swami’s circle of grace and protection which the SSSIHMS is. Arun was also caught between the horns of another dilemma - Was this Swami’s test to see whether he would give up on Swami’s hospital and go elsewhere? He was unable to decide and did the only thing he could possibly have done - prayer!

Swami now sent another angel to cheer them up. The asst. Director of SSSIHMS, V Praveen (his story is another amazing one), referred Arun to Dr. Shekar Rao, Swami’s devotee and a former paediatric cardiologist at the SSSIHMS. Dr. Rao also agreed to take over the case at the famous Narayana Hrudayalaya if the couple so wished. With less than a month left for the delivery, Arun and Keerthi agreed to let Dr. Rao take over.

In Arun’s words,
“ By now, Keerthi had become a bigger devotee of Swami than any of us. She would pray daily and intensely. Every time she was worried, Swami would send His reassurance in mysterious ways  - at times it was an email, at times a post on Facebook, at times it was a random line from a website. That kept all of us going along with the doses of vibhuti that she took.”

Even as they were gaining in strength and courage, there came another blow. In the first week of June, they came to know that the baby’s growth had suddenly slowed down dramatically. The doctor advised immediate surgery via elective C-section.
“Please choose a date of your liking as soon as possible and we shall do the surgery to deliver the baby”, the doctor at Ovum hospital advised the prospective parents.

Some members of the family began to consult with the priests for an auspicious date while Arun began to discuss with the doctors on what would be the best date. Keerthi made her choice,
“I think Swami was referring to this in my dream. Now, I feel sure that He mentioned 8th. Let the delivery be done on 8th June.”

Once again, everyone felt reassured because Swami’s hand became evident.

Delivery and deliverance

Many things had to be planned and worked out with precision before the C-section. The baby would be delivered at Ovum hospital and then, would have to be rushed to Narayana Hrudayalaya. But before the shift, the baby would have to be given an intravenous drug.

Every newborn baby has something called the PDA. PDA (patent ductus arteriosis) is a naturally occurring opening between the pulmonary artery and the aorta of the heart. It functions as a shunt by transmitting blood across the two vessels in a baby and closes on its own after birth. The PDA would have to be artificially kept open for a few hours (through the intravenous prostaglandin drug) to ensure that the good and bad blood mixed to a certain extent in the baby. This would ensure that there is at least some oxygen supply to the body till the baby underwent surgery. If the PDA was not kept open, it would lead to blue baby syndrome.

All these were planned and Keerthi underwent the surgery on the 8th of June. Since there was a great urgency to get the baby to Narayana Hrudayalaya, she wasn’t even allowed to hold her baby. She was just told that she had become mother to a baby boy who had been rushed in an ambulance.

It is often said that the pain of childbirth gets assuaged by the joy of motherhood. When the mother first holds her baby, the strength and joy she derives makes up for all the pain she underwent and sacrifices she made so far. Keerthi had been deprived of that strengthening moment and she was feeling very low. But she continued with her prayers. She told Swami with all intensity,
“You have gifted me this baby boy. Doctors say he is a blue baby. He is my Krishna then... He is my Krish.”

The boy had been named!

The ultimate shock?

As Arun travelled to Narayana Hrudayalaya with Krish, he was in constant prayer. The urgency of the situation was making everyone take the risk of a surgery on an hours-old baby. He knew that if the operation could be postponed even for a few days, the chances of post-operative survival of the baby would improve vastly. However, he did not have the luxury of even a single day for delay. Arun reached the hospital and was soon in for a rude shock. He was told that Krish was not suffering from a ‘simple TGA’ but had a ‘complex TGA’. A complex TGA meant TGA with other heart defects!

He was shattered to say the least. He did not want this roller-coaster ride any more. He did not want to share this with Keerthi too because she was already down. In that moment, he understood that human efforts can only do so much. Having done your best, you have the leave the rest to God. And while doing that, one might as well take rest.

He had hardly completed his thoughts when the doctor said something that took his breath away.
“Let us keep the baby under observation for a few days. Then, you can take him home and we shall schedule the surgery after a month...”

Arun’s jaw dropped. Was he hearing right? Could the ‘urgent surgery’ be actually postponed for a month? The doctor medically explained Swami’s leela.

“You see, the baby is suffering from another problem - VSD - or a hole in the wall separating the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. In normal development, the wall between the chambers closes before the foetus is born, so that by birth, oxygen-rich blood is kept from mixing with the oxygen-poor blood. When the hole does not close normally, it is a defect. However, this defect is a blessing in disguise in this case because it is ensuring a connection between the two separated circulatory loops in the baby’s body.”

Arun now had goosebumps on his skin. With Swami, even a cardiac defect becomes a lifesaver. His heart oozed with gratitude and he was now bubbling to share this news with Keerthi and everyone else. The doctor continued with more good news.

A happy family picture - courtesy Bhagawan Baba!
“There are different types of VSD. This baby has a VSD which will close on its own within a month or two. So we will have to do the corrective surgery only for the TGA and not for the VSD.”
Arun could feel his eyes moisten. The defect had been gifted to the baby to help it. And once the job was done, Swami had ensured that the defect would go away on its own!

Days later, Krish was discharged from the ICU and was in Keerthi’s hands. Keerthi broke down completely as she beheld her baby the way.
“Krish... my dear Krish...” she said as she planted a million tender kisses on his forehead. She held him close to her heart, close to her Swami who had turned her tears of intense grief into tears of joy. Arun looked at the scene from a distance. He was reminded of another mother aeons ago who had hugged and kissed her blue-baby when she held and beheld him. This was possibly how mother Devaki had fondled Krishna who had been separated from her since birth.

Happy weeks passed and Krish would indeed turn blue whenever he cried a lot. When the blue-turning episodes became frequent, it was an indication that the VSD was closing. The defect had served its purpose and it was time for the surgery.
“I will be leaving for a few weeks”, Dr. Shekar Rao said, “but I will ensure that you are in safe hands for the surgery.”
“No doctor”, Arun insisted, “we want you only to do the surgery...”
“Then, it will have to be in the next couple of days because after that I have to leave..."

The Final Hurdle and Finale

The parents instantly agreed and Krish was admitted to the hospital on the 14th of July. Before that, Arun took Krish to the ‘Sai Darshan’ samithi center at Indiranagar, seeking Swami’s blessings.
“Swami, take care of your Krish.”
The night of the 14th at the hospital turned to be harrowing. Krish always had about 60% oxygen supply instead of the usual 100%. Late that night, it dropped to a precarious 8%! It looked like the whole journey would get abruptly terminated on the verge of reaching the destination.

There was nothing that could be done immediately. The surgery was a few hours away and Krish had to stay till then. Keerthi was shattered. She stopped herself from collapsing by taking recourse to the powerful Sai Gayatri mantra. That was her ONLY strength. Arun applied the all-powerful medicine he knew - Swami’s vibhuti. Then, he calmed himself completely with his newfound surrender to Swami.
“Swami, this is your baby. Whatever you do with it is your wish. We are only custodians. You decide what is best for your baby.”
The vibhuti carried Krish through the night; Keerthi was sustained by her prayers; Arun was comforted by his surrender.

On the 15th of July, the surgery was performed by Dr. Shekar Rao. But as far as Keerthi and Arun were concerned, it was their Swami doing the surgery. It began at around 8:30 in the morning and went on till 5:30 in the evening. The doctor emerged from the operation theatre with good news. The surgery had gone on very well in spite of several challenging situations during its course.

Was it a coincidence that Krish was discharged, hale and hearty on the 19th of July, the Guru Poornima day, when the moon turned full in celebration of the grace of the Guru?
Isn't his smile as bewitching as little Krishna?

Arun thanked Swami for the twin blessings - a successful cardiac surgery which made Krish’s heart whole and His entry into Keerthi heart which made her heart also whole.  

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  1. sairam,good write up.very happy for this family:)baby steals the show.

  2. kanchana jayasankar20 January 2017 at 09:57

    Surrendering to Him is the only pathway worth taking..Extremely well written ..Was completely witnessing the entire episode going through the emotions of the young parents..The pics are so apt with a radiant Krish beaming as if saying Why fear when Swami was there through his journey from womb to world!!

  3. Wow! Words fail me .. Don't know what to say about their faith and Swami's compassion! Yet another amazing story of grace , faith and His love for us!

  4. wonderful example for the blessings by total surrender to the ever loving Swamy

  5. Endless flow of grace and compassion. Our Lord's trademark. What better remedy in any given situation than holding on to him with faith. Our heart filled gratitude to bhagawan, our ocean of compassion.

  6. Thank you Brother for posting this! As the saying goes - in time for a re-assurance!

  7. Very inspiring... Thee is nothing more fruitful on this earth other than being a swami's devotee.. Thanks Aravind sir for sharing this wonderful story

  8. Thank you for sharing this story..May Swami bless you all!

  9. Add me to the mailing list please

    1. Sairam sir. If you share your email id as a comment, I wont publish the comment here but I will be able to add it to my mailing list.

  10. Can only say Sairam with tears on my eyes. Blessed parents and child and you to write Sai Leelas

  11. Sairam. Swami protecting all His children is proved again by this divine miracle. Big thanks to Bro Arvind.

  12. Dear Mr. Aravind Sairam, No words to express my joy with tears running all through while reading this wonderful sai leelas article. Thanks a lot....

  13. Sai krishna��
    Baby is sooo Lovely����too cute��
    This Beautiful story just reaffirmed my Faith in our Swami..HE is the Doer..& all we need do is have Firm Faith & Surrender to Him Fully..come what may✨

  14. Lovely incident Bro...Something very similar happened in my life & re lived those scary but assuring moments...

  15. Shenbagavijayalakshmi10 February 2017 at 22:19

    Sairam brother
    It is truly inspiring article. Complete surrender to swami is really a powerful remedy and hope in every moment of our life. May swami always keep all of us with his devine protection.

  16. Sai Ram..... beautiful article. I have no words to say.... Little Krish's right hand in the family pic is like what Lord Dakshinamurthy has....


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