Bill Gates founder of Microsoft, in his blog called GatesNotes, recently wrote about Dr Matthew Varghese, calling him one of the five in the world who he thinks is a real-life hero.
Dr Varghese, who runs India’s only polio ward, at St Stephen’s Hospital in old Delhi, wants his ward emptied of patients — and this singular vision spurs him to devote all his time to the rehabilitation of men and women who have been afflicted with polio.
Dr Varghese’s first close encounter with polio was three decades ago OPD when, as a senior resident at Maulana Azad Medical College, he started going to the Sanjay Amar Colony slum with a group of other doctors every Saturday to treat the poor. “Several patients had deformities caused by polio and I decided to help them ,” he said.
Over the decades, he’s touched and changed many lives. “Most patients with this condition say that they do not believe in god. Why should they? They do not deserve life-long suffering,” he says.
He does his bit to mitigate the suffering. St Stephen’s cross-subsidizes treatment for needy patients and offers surgery, physiotherapy, supportive devices and hospital stay free to all polio patients admitted to the hospital. Since 2001, the polio program is aided by Rotary India.
Polio was eliminated from India in 2011. But thousands continue to suffer from the immobility that the disease brought. The polio ward at St Stephen’s, one of Delhi’s oldest hospitals, started in 1987 with eight beds, and in the early 1990s, when polio was hyper-endemic in India with 200,000 to 400,000 cases reported annually, the ward remained mostly full.