The Agent Of God
On average, he does twelve flawless keyhole surgeries daily. More often than not, he reaches home well past midnight. Yet this nocturnal surgeon’s wee hour’s activity, swimming and brisk walking, has known no break so far. Instead of being keyed up, he infects everyone with his disarming smile. This keyhole surgery maestro, Dr Praveen Bhatia, Chairperson, Minimal Access & Bariatric Surgery Centre, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, has unbounded energy holed up in him and, naturally, his colleagues are left wondering what is key to it.
If motivational stories have anything to do with his extraordinary stamina, he has a treasure-trove. He not only ploughs through piles of fats in his morbidly obese patients; he also finds time to fish out stories from myriad sources which motivate to overcome all odds that come in the way. These stories for sure come handy in motivating his patients who come in the hospital with a will to live bogged down by fatal mountains of fat. His newsletter, which he dispatches all over the world, for eleven years on a trot, to his acquaintances world over, 6 thousand in hard copies and 40 thousand through e-mails, opens every time with a motivational story. The latest issue motivational story belongs to a legendary pistol shooter of hungry, Karoli, whose right hand was chopped off by a grenade explosion. But undaunted by this, the shooter trained his left hand and finally made it to the Olympic championship. These days Dr Bhatia is telling this story to his crest-fallen patients with élan. “Supposing you lose your right hand, will you train your left hand to do the surgery?” To this poser he, instead of resorting to bravado, says in a lighter vein, which is his wont, “but with robot around, where is the need of hands for surgeries.”
This trait in him shows he does not savour to plough a lonely furrow. This fetish in him for taking others along in his stride is also amply clear in his approach to his profession. Whenever he does any bariatric surgery worth making headline, he just imputes the success to his team. With over 500 bariatric surgeries so far, Dr Bhatia’s two books, Laparoscopic Hernia Repair and Art of Endo Suturing, are reckoned as worth reading even in the USA. Not long ago he had surprise of a life time in Pune where he had gone to attend international laparoscopic conference. In the early morning, a cab was sent to take him to a hospital for doing live surgery. He had an unknown female American surgeon as a co-traveller in the car. While on way, when the subject of Endo Suturing came, the lady referred to an Indian doctor’s book she admired very much. When she opened her cell phone to show him the name of the book, it was to his surprise his own book she was referring to.
In fact, the world is his oyster. He has travelled a number of countries to visit the best centres of minimal access surgery. For this jet-setting surgeon, travelling is second nature.
His morbidly obese patients for whom life had become a drag, equates him with God when they start feeling light as feathers but Dr Bhatia refuses to accept it. His belief has gone upside down. Due to an event in his life, it is indelibly etched on his psyche that the doctor is not God, in fact a patient is. In 1996, he met with an accident, in which, fortunately, he came out unscathed. His Maruti 800 swerved dangerously at a sharp turn near Narayana. His car while hurtling away turned turtle thrice before it stilled. The car was mangled but he had not a scratch. Someone came running and extricated him from the debris. The rescuer was a patient of his on whom he had done a free laparoscopy sometime ago. From then onwards, the patient has taken a godly proportion for him.
By D Kumar