Way beyond 8 years, in 2014, when my mentor Dr. Dinesh Chirla requested me if I can go for weekly once clinic in one of the state run orphanages for regular health checks, as a part of initiative run by Heal a Child Foundation. I never knew this would change my life. That was indeed my first visit to any such orphanages. I just could not detach myself and decided to continue my help as long as possible. Subsequently I started getting attached to many such foundations, small and big, which used to give me immense pleasure. I had very limited resources but what was an honest intention to help these little ones. One fine day, I approached a very good friend Dr. Venkatlakshmi and asked her if she would help me funding for the cause, and she agreed. Similarly, I seeked help from many such close friends and they gave me money to help many such children and told ‘We Trust You’. It continued for many years and as close group of friends we helped many such children where ever, whatever and whenever chance given. It was just a drop to the ocean. Was that sufficient?
Then, in 2018, a baby by name B/O Rajkumari got admitted with me at Rainbow Children’s Hospital NICU. They came all the way from Nagpur. There was a cyst in his belly and also a hole in his stomach. Most compromising factor was, he was born early and very small for his age.
After the first surgery in Nagpur and treatment in ICU for 16 days, the doctors told them that there was risk to his life and he needs to go to the higher center for further management. He had a stormy course of multiple surgeries and a long stay of 51 days in our hospital. I used to see that baby daily and counsel as a newborn specialist. Hospital supported them in many ways and also they approached crowed funding. But it wasn’t enough. A day came when they got exhausted emotionally and financially and decided to leave. They couldn’t bear the financial strain, mother was getting sicker day by day as no proper home food and baby was also in lot of pain due to multiple surgeries.
I had a sleepless night that day, woke up in the morning, cooked something for the mother (Raj kumari) and reached for the rounds with a decision to discharge them and let them go.
When I reached bedside, I just heard “Doctor, can you please save me, my parents are really crying daily as they want me to be with them, whole life. Doctor, can you help my father with some money so that he doesn’t repent his life for that he couldn’t do much for me!”
Two questions came to me-
- Can this baby be saved with just continuation of treatment and would his future be good without any deformities?
- Is money the only factor, which is preventing this baby from getting better?
All our team of Neonatologist, Pediatric Surgeons and Gastroenterologist at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, took a combined decision that we will do the best in the current circumstances and I took initiative to arrange finances. Over a period of 5 days, I could arrange 2.35lakhs, which not only helped them to pay all bills but also post operative care and medications. Viraj was discharged home and is 4 years 7 months now, with normal developemental milestones and growth appropriate for his age.
With each passing day, many such underprivileged newborns came to my unit who needed intensive care treatment but couldn’t afford, many newborns who needed to be referred to higher centers for treatment but couldn’t reach due to lack of finances and many of them reached late to the higher center due to unaffordability and lack of awareness and couldn’t be done justice to the treatment. All these thoughts to 3 long years to accomplish “Extra Mile”. I approached few friends, who believed in me and agreed to be on board with me and some became members. The Charted accountant agreed to help me for the cause and the digital marketing handler also came aboard to take care of website and social media and that’s how we all registered our trust on 1st October,2021.
Extra Mile Foundation is a charitable trust and Non-Profit Organization, founded with an intention to save ‘Premature and Sick Newborns’, who can survive with good intensive care treatment (NICU); but parents cannot bear the cost. EXTRA MILE will bridge the gap between the treatment at par excellence and insufficient resources.
I thank my mentors Dr.GN Rao and Dr. Ramesh Kancharla and for helping me in this journey to accomplish Extra Mile, Dr. Dinesh Chirla for not only making me a neonatologist but also seeding in me the thought of ‘giving back to the society’, my parents Prof. S.P.Mehndiratta, Mrs. Neelam Mehndiratta, and brother Mr.Nitin Mehndiratta ,for making me what I am today, my mother-in-law Mrs. Motia Rani Bagga for standing beside me in all the difficult situations, my daughter Shanaya for believing me and loving me unconditionally all the time and my husband Dr. Bhupesh Bagga, who is my strength.