Medical Yatra: US Doctors Visit Amritapuri
3-12 January, 2006 — Amritapuri
Over the past two weeks, a team of 12 doctors and volunteers spent time in Amritapuri, providing medical aid to tsunami victims in the region.
A “Medical Yatra” was sponsored by AIPNO [Association of Indian Physicians of Northern Ohio] in coordination with AIMS, the Ashram’s super-specialty hospital in Cochin. Most of the members of AIPNO hail from Cleveland, but others had travelled from all over North America–Michigan, North Carolina, Vancouver, Toronto. Each day, the group visited tsunami-relief camps near Amritapuri and set up free medical clinics through which they treated hundreds of tsunami-affected villagers.
The inspiration for the trip came just after the tsunami. While doing relief work in February, AIPNO member Dr. Jaya Shah and her husband, Dr. Ramesh, encountered a number of volunteers from Amma’s group who were also providing relief assistance. “We were so impressed by what Amma was doing that we wanted to find out how we could help,” said Dr. Ramesh.
“When we heard about Amma, we thought that it was a very good match, so we decided to come to Amritapuri,” said the president of AIPNO, Dr. Saroj Mahalaha (gynecology). “We came for service–an opportunity to serve.”
Soon after the decision was made, e-mails were sent out and ads were placed in medical newsletters announcing the Medical Yatra. Dr. Babulal Pragani, a general physician from Vancouver, was one of the people who responded to the call. “I had heard about Amma before and now this was a great opportunity to come to India and help.”
Dr. Meena Shah, an occupational therapist from Monroe, Michigan, received one of the e-mails early last year. “A few of us went to see Amma for the first time in Detroit [November 2005] before coming to India. I was fascinated by the impact she has on people and wanted to come help.”
Upon arrival in Amritapuri, Amma met with the entire group, most of who had never met her before. The meeting left lasting impressions. For Dr. Gita Gidvani, a gynecologist from Cleveland, the experience was the “crowning glory” of her own spiritual path. “It was such an excellent experience meeting her. She has such a simple, succinct way of dealing with life. Her love and service appealed to me. She expresses that love.”
Dr. Shanta Kampani, a general surgeon from Cleveland, said, “The meeting we had with Amma was unique, unbelievable. She called us all close, and Amma noticed I had a cold and gave me hot water. She really cares about people.”
In fact, by trip’s end, for many of the doctors the real source of the scientific intrigue had become Amma herself. “No one can scientifically explain how Amma is able to do what she is doing,” said Ramesh Shah.
“She has organized so much and has such a big operation,” added Dr. Saroj. “There is only one person in charge and she is attending to all the details. How can Amma give 10,000 hugs in one day? How can she sleep only one to two hours? No medical doctor can explain this. There are too many questions that no one can explain!”