Sathya Sai Baba, transplanter of
SOME TIME AGO, RADIO SAI BROADCAST A
SERIES RELATING TO THE EXPERIENCES OF SAI DOCTORS. THE ARTICLES ON
WHICH THIS SERIES WAS BASED WAS TAKEN, WITH DUE PERMISSION OF
COURSE, FROM THE BOOK INSPIRED MEDICINE,
EDITED BY JUDY WARNER, AND PUBLISHED BY LEELA PRESS IN USA. WE
PRESENT BELOW THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE ARTICLE BY DR. VALLUVAN
JEEVANANDAM OF AMERICA, WITH NOTES FROM OUR SIDE.
JEEVANANDAM IS A BRILLIANT HEART SURGEON WITH HEART TRANSPLANT AS
HIS SPECIALISATION. TO START WITH, HE WAS A NON-BELIEVER, AS IS
OFTEN THE CASE. AND THEN CAME A DAY WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR HIM TO
BECOME A SAI DOCTOR AND SERVE THE LORD. OVER NOW TO DR.
Baba says that He
will call us only when it is the proper time. The first time I
heard about Swami was in 1980. My aunt took my mother, sister, and
me to visit Kodaikanal and insisted that we go to see Baba there.
She said He was a holy man who would grant interviews, materialize
things, and predict the future. At that time, there were about 200
devotees in Kodaikanal. I could have had close, personal
experiences with Baba. But my mind refused to accept anything
spiritual at that time.
I spent the
subsequent ten years finishing medical school and my residency in
cardiac surgery. Religion and spirituality were the last things on
my mind. My sole focus was making a lot of money, buying a huge
house, driving luxurious cars, and eating at the best restaurants.
A life of material wealth was mine for the taking.
Baba started me on
the divine path without my ever realizing it. My parents have
always been religious, especially my mother. I have disappointed
her many times by not learning Slokas
and doing daily prayer. My parents moved to Arizona and began
attending the Sai Baba center in Mesa. Whenever my family and I
visited them, they would take us to Sunday Bhajans. That was not
exactly what I wanted to do during my short vacations. I would
even try to schedule the plane flights to avoid the Bhajans. But
with my mother's guidance, I started to listen to and actually
enjoy Bhajan tapes. My interest in Baba was further heightened
when I read Howard Murphet's Sai
Baba: Man of Miracles. Baba was no longer an
entity to run from, but not one to be believed either. Bhajan
tapes slowly replaced pop music as the preferred music in the car.
most dramatic event occurred in November 1992 during a visit to
Arizona for Thanksgiving. I had prepared for the long flight with
the usual set of novels and other time-consuming materials. After
I got on the plane and opened my bag, none of the reading material
I had packed was there. The only book was
The Vision of Sai by Rita Bruce.
Absolutely nothing else! Without any options, I started reading
the book, clearly expecting to fall asleep within half an hour.
Well, I was never so mesmerized and moved by a book. Swami had
finally caught me. I was previously a non-vegetarian who really
enjoyed every meat dish possible. I stepped out of the airplane a
vegetarian, much to the utter astonishment of my wife and parents.
I have remained a pure vegetarian, despite eating at some of the
fanciest restaurants in the world. All my previous acquaintances
were astonished. I was finally on the divine path toward Swami.
The next big event
that catapulted me toward Swami occurred in April 1993. We had a
guest speaker at one of our Sunday Bhajans who told us about the
new Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi where cardiac surgery
is done absolutely free. Because I was also a cardiac surgeon, I
was introduced to the speaker. During the conversation, he said
that the availability of artificial heart valves was limited in
India and asked whether there was anything I could do to help. I
had absolutely no idea how to proceed further. Valves are very
expensive in the United States and, being a new attending
physician, the spirit was there in wanting to help, but the wallet
was not. This was to become one of Swami's amazing
The next day, I got
a call from an old friend from whom I had not heard in a year. It
seemed that he had switched jobs and was working for St. Jude
Medical, the largest manufacturer of heart valves in the world.
Furthermore, he was in charge of the Asian market. He arranged for
me to buy valves at cost and, in addition, arranged for a matching
donation from his company. In one telephone call things went from
impossible to reality. Later, a representative who sold sutures
contacted me. He had a huge overstock of very expensive heart
sutures and wanted to know if there were any hospitals doing
charity work that could use them. Swami was guiding me through an
incredible shopping spree. Finally, it was the middle of May, and
I had a lot of equipment but no time off to take it to India. We
were short on faculty, and there was no relief in sight. My
prayers to Swami were answered when we were finally able to
recruit a very good surgeon. However, he wanted three weeks off to
visit his family in Japan. Without my asking, my boss came to me
with a proposition. Since the new attending physician was taking
time off, how about if I took an equal amount of time off in July?
I was dumbfounded. Even without asking, I was being given time to
visit Puttaparthi. Swami was reeling me in.
I set out to India
with more than $30,000 worth of equipment. Of course, the Customs
Officer in the Bombay Airport, sensing a big financial bonanza,
wanted to charge import duty despite my telling him it was all
charitable donations. I started praying for Swami's help. Just
then the supervisor arrived. The second he heard it was for
Swami's hospital, he ordered his men not only to help pack the
sutures in a suitcase, but to help transport everything to the
domestic terminal for the trip to Madras. Swami is always testing
one's faith, but He will always come to the rescue at the bleakest
LATER, DR. JEEVANANDAM RECEIVED AN INVITATION TO SPEAK IN THE
SECOND INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON CARDIOVASCULAR MEDICINE, BEING
HELD IN PUTTAPARTHI. AND SO, TO PUTTAPARTHI THE YOUNG DOCTOR WENT.
WE PICK UP THE STORY FROM THERE.
The Symposium ended,
and I had to stay an extra day to catch my flight back to the
United States. In the morning, Swami granted me an interview. I
had not expected this, although I had previously written down a
list of questions in case I was granted this privilege. I went to
the interview room with several others whom I do not remember, and
with Dr. Donald Ross, probably one of the greatest surgeons in the
world. Imagine me, an upstart, sitting next to this luminary. Only
Swami can pull these diverse groups of people together.
I had practiced all
my questions and was "ready for Swami." Of course, the second I
went inside, I completely melted. I was totally overwhelmed. I sat
down across from Swami, and He started talking about very
practical things such as money, family, and work. By this time I
had completely forgotten about my "wish list," but Swami went
right down the list, item by item. It was as if He were reading
what I had written. He truly knows everything.
At the end of the
interview, Swami gave me some Vibhuti, and I left for Bangalore. I
had put some very precious things in a bag: Swami's Vibhuti, other
mementos from the conference, and some pictures presented to me by
a doctor who, in turn, had received them from Swami. I checked
into the hotel in Bangalore and went to the airport at night for a
flight to Bombay. To my horror, I had misplaced the bag. I
probably left it in the taxi from Puttaparthi. There was no way to
retrieve it. I told my contact about this at the Bangalore airport
about 30 minutes before departure. However, no one even knew which
taxi I had traveled in from Puttaparthi. I felt I had lost the
most precious things in life. I got on the plane, and the doors
closed. Then there was a delay. I was getting a little anxious, as
I had a connection to make. Just then, the doors reopened, and
airline officials asked if I was on board. I thought I must be in
a lot of trouble. A person came to me, dropped off the bag with
all of my precious belongings, and left. I did not know him, nor
did any of my Bangalore contacts with whom I later spoke. This was
another one of Swami's miracles!
By the way, since
that interview, I have become much more comfortable discussing
God's work with my patients. Many of them are desperately ill and
come to our institution because their cases are hopeless. I tell
the patients that, although I will do my best, there is certainly
a chance they may die, and that God is the one who determines
that. I am just a humble instrument of God's action. I try to
steer their hopes away from me and have them focus on God. The
patients who truly believe in God and say they will completely
leave it "in the hands of God" have recovered remarkably well.
This is the power of faith and prayer.
AND NOW, A
FEW FASCINATING MEDIAL EXPERIENCES THAT DR. JEEVANANDAM HAS HAD.
We had a patient at
Temple University who had a massive heart attack, became very
unstable, and was rushed to surgery. He needed several important
blood vessels bypassed but, when his chest was opened, we found
that the heart attack had been so big that all the usual landmarks
we use to find the vessels were completely obliterated. I searched
for more than 20 minutes without finding any vessels. Everyone in
the operating room was getting nervous for, if those vessels could
not be found and bypassed, the patient would surely die. I was
dissecting on the back of the heart to find the vessels,
frustration and anxiety mounting. Just then, I heard the words,
"Sai Ram." No one else in the room was a Baba devotee, so those
words startled me. In addition, I felt a sharp pinch in the middle
of my chest just where I wear Swami's materialized ring as a
necklace. My hand moved involuntarily, and I made a cut in the
patient's heart. Right there, in an area where we never would have
found it, was the main artery. Two others were found quickly, and
the patient did very well. Everyone in the operating room wanted
to know how I had done that. I told them it was luck, but that it
was helpful to have God on our side. Clearly, I was acting as an
instrument of the Lord. Ever since then, I have, on occasion, felt
a pinch on my chest in the exact spot where the ring is touching
me. Of course, this makes me instantly think of Swami.
involves Arunan Sivalingum, an eminent retinal specialist. At the
young age of 37, Arunan was considered one of the foremost
ophthalmologists in the world. He was health conscious, despite
leading a very busy and stressful life. He experienced some nausea
and vomiting and went to the emergency room at his institution.
The most likely diagnosis was an ulcer, so he was being prepared
to receive a gastroscopy. As a part of the routine, he also had an
EKG, which showed a massive heart attack. He was rushed to the
cardiology suite, and an angiogram revealed massive coronary
artery disease. He became unstable and was rushed to the operating
room. The surgeons performed bypass surgery but were unsuccessful
in recovering the heart. They placed him on a temporary
heart-assist device and debated what to do with this dying
This is where Sai
incidents take over. It so happened that one of the doctors in
charge of the intensive care unit had just attended our
conferences on transplantation and end-stage heart disease. She
immediately encouraged the surgeons to refer him to us at Temple.
In addition, Arunan's wife was best friends with the wife of our
medical director of transplantation. Arunan was transferred early
in the morning and went directly to our operating room. He was
unconscious, was on a ventilator, had his chest open, was
bleeding, and had poor blood flow. The mortality rate of such a
patient is about 80 percent. I took one look at him and my heart
sank. Here was an important member of society, a young, energetic
husband and a father of four, including a newborn. Only a miracle
could save him. Just then, the nurses pulled back the sheets in
preparation for surgery. There was a picture of Swami. Arunan's
mother, a long time devotee, had taped a picture of our Swami to
his upper arm. My nurses were surprised. They exclaimed, "Hey,
that's the dude in the picture at your house Val." I started
thinking that maybe now we had a chance. We started the surgery
and proceeded to stop the bleeding, take out the temporary device,
and implant a more permanent artificial heart. The idea was to get
him better and wait until a heart transplant could be done. The
surgery was tricky, and we barely got him through. He was
transferred to the intensive care unit in a grave condition. The
slightest complication would mean death. He remained unstable.
I had to go to a
very important meeting in San Francisco I had postponed attending
many times. I left him in capable hands and boarded the
cross-country flight. Arunan continued to bleed, but his blood
flows were acceptable. I kept in constant contact by sky phone.
Then, his flow started to go down. He was starting to die. Opening
his chest again would surely have killed him. I gave a bunch of
orders, but things were looking bleak. At that time, my plane
began its descent into San Francisco, and the sky phones were shut
off. The only option was to pray. I told Swami that Arunan was
completely in His hands. There was nothing we
could do. That was around 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast. I went to
the hotel room fully expecting disaster. I called the hospital in
Philadelphia and spoke to the resident, who was giddy with
happiness. At exactly 9:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast, and
also Swami's special number, a miracle had happened. Arunan
stopped bleeding, and his blood flows improved dramatically. By
the next day, he was off the critical list and did spectacularly
well with the device. He ended up going home and even operated on
patients while on the device. It was truly a miracle.
That was only the
beginning. He was on the device without any complications, which
is rare, for more than nine months. With Swami's guidance, I was
contemplating a career move to Chicago. But I felt a personal
responsibility to have Arunan's transplant done before I left
Philadelphia. During a Sunday Bhajan, I prayed hard to Swami. I
did not want to leave without finishing what we had started on
Arunan. During meditation, my beeper went off. A heart available,
but there were seven people ahead of Arunan. I told the
coordinator to send blood for matches on everyone. The coordinator
asked twice about sending blood on Arunan because he was so far
down on the list. I insisted. Through divine grace, every one of
the patients above him tested poorly. Swami had designated this
heart for Arunan. We proceeded with the transplant. I placed
Vibhuthi on Arunan and, again, there were more than 15 people in
the room watching, but no one actually saw me do it. The
transplant was truly divine. It went without a hitch. I could feel
Swami taking over the operation. There was no other way for it to
go so perfectly. The new heart jumped back to life. Everyone in
the room was absolutely amazed; this was the best heart anyone had
seen. Arunan has done great since then and, with Swami overlooking
things, he will continue to do so. He has become a strong devotee
and has sent his curriculum vitae to Swami to ask for permission
to work at the hospital in Puttaparthi. I am sure that Swami will
get him there one day. Swami has always said He will open His
hands, and the best doctors will come. They just come at different
times and by different paths.
FIFTEEN MONTHS AFTER ALL THIS HAPPENED, DR. JEEVANANDAM WAS BACK
AGAIN IN PUTTAPARTHI. JUST BEFORE HE WAS ABOUT TO RETURN TO
AMERICA, SWAMI GRANTED HIM AN INTERVIEW. OVER NOW TO THE DOCTOR’S
DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HAPPENED.
us with an interview at the absolute last moment. When He asked me
what I wanted, I said, "Your blessings," and He told me that I
always had them. He asked again, and I said, "Your grace," and He
gave me the same answer. Finally, I said, "Whatever you desire
Swami." He materialized a silver ring with an Om sign. He asked
what silver meant. Purity, He
replied. He then took back the ring, blew on it and it became
gold, with His picture on it. He put it on my finger; again, a
perfect fit. During our personal interview, Swami had asked where
my diamond ring was. I told Him that I wore it as a necklace. He
then took off the ring that He had just materialized, blew on it,
and it disappeared. I guess if you don't use it, you lose it.
Swami then asked about my work. "Fine," I said. He responded,
No good, too much jealousy.
That was the first
time Swami had said that there was a problem with work.
Externally, everything was perfect. We had built a new house, I
was director of the largest transplant program in the United
States, and my career, with Swami's grace, was blossoming. But
Swami knew, and He clearly predicted the future. He then
materialized a nine gem (Navaratna) ring for me, which I wear
along with the other ring, on a necklace.
AND UNKNOWN TO DR. JEEVANANDAM, EVENTS WERE SHAPING TOWARDS HIS
MIGRATION TO A DIFFERENT PLACE. THE DOCTOR WAS ABOUT TO LEAVE FOR
INDIA FOR YET ANOTHER VISIT, AND JUST THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED.
Just before I was to
leave for India, I received a call from the University of Chicago,
asking me if I would be interested in interviewing for the
position of Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery. I wanted to postpone
speaking to them until after the trip to India, but they insisted,
so I went for a day. Certainly, being asked to be the department
chief at a very young age, in such a prestigious institution,
could only be influenced by Swami's hand. I was happy to be asked,
but Temple University countered with a similar offer, and it was
going to be much easier to stay where I was. When I arrived in
India, Swami was in Whitefield,
DR. JEEVANANDAM BECAME IMMERSED IN WORK, AND WEEKS FLEW BY. AND
On the day I was to
leave, I fully anticipated another of Swami's usual
Leelas, figuring He would postpone
the interview until the last possible minute. Of course. He was as
unpredictable as always. The second I passed through the gates of
Brindavan, several devotees came directly to me and said Swami
wanted to see me for an interview in the morning. Swami started
with the usual How are you, doctor?
He then went ahead and solved one of my main dilemmas. When we
perform bypass surgery, it is conventional practice to use veins
as grafts for the procedure. I like to use arteries instead, as
they are naturally meant to handle high pressure. Veins are
obtained from the legs; they are long, and easy to work with.
Arteries are obtained from the arm, chest wall, or the stomach
they are much shorter and less forgiving in terms of length. Why
not maintain the artery in its natural state instead of
transforming a low-pressure vessel, such as a vein, into an
artery? It is much more technically demanding and tricky to do
this, so only about 5 percent of cardiac surgeons do this type of
operation routinely. In my practice, and at Swami’s Hospital, we
had implemented a system of using arterial grafts as much as
possible. However, there is no way to prove if this is better, and
we won't know for at least five to ten years. I've always wondered
whether the extra effort was worth it but, despite the lack of
conclusive medical data, I believed in my heart that it was. Then
Swami answered my dilemma by describing how I do not use veins,
that I use arteries, which is a better and more advanced
technique. I no longer need scientific proof. Swami validated all
of the extra work involved in using arterial grafts.
I started asking Him
about Chicago and, before I could finish, He took my hand in His,
told me He knew about the move, that He had arranged it, and that
I must go. It was a direct command from the divine.
FORETOLD, DR JEEVANANDAM DID MOVE TO CHICAGO, BUT THE MOVEMENT WAS
NOT AN ORDINARY EVENT; RATHER, IT HAD A BEAUTIFUL DIVINE TOUCH, AS
We, indeed, moved
from Philadelphia to Chicago. It would never have happened without
Swami being so forceful. Every time I thought of all the things we
were giving up in Philadelphia, Swami's words came to mind. From a
practical point of view, the move did not make sense. The program
was more established at Temple University; I made more money
there, we had an incomparable house; and I had the respect of the
community. But faith in Swami and His forceful words made the move
possible. At one point, I was really having doubts, and I wrote a
letter to Swami from my office. I asked for a sign that this move
really was what He meant. Just then, my secretary knocked and said
a Dr. Mulder was calling. I told her to take a message, but Dr.
Mulder was persistent. I took the call, and he said he was an
alumnus of the surgery department of the University of Chicago. He
gave me a ten-minute discourse on why I should move. I later found
out that no one at the University of Chicago knew of a Dr. Mulder.
It was Swami Himself giving the sign I had wanted. He always
answers our prayers, just in different ways than one would expect.
This is just a small
sampling of my experiences with Bhagavan Baba. Since I have
witnessed and participated in Swami's miracles, my entire attitude
toward life has changed. I have been taught humility, compassion,
and to serve mankind. Swami sets high standards, and I do not know
if I can ever reach them. But, with His guidance, I have been
directed onto the right path. I have a long way to go, but my Lord
and Guru, Sai Baba, will surely get me there.
READER, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT? DO YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE? IF SO,
WHY DON’T YOU TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT SO THAT THEY TOO CAN READ IT
AND EXPERIENCE ANANDA.
BY THE WAY,
WE SHALL PUBLISH LATER THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH DR.
JEEVANANDAM THAT WAS BROADCAST OVER RADIO SAI. ALSO, THE
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH DR. SIVALANGAM, WHO RECEIVED THE
HEART TRANSPLANT! WATCH OUT!!
Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine, March 15,