Since 2014, no new polio cases have been registered in India, and although this is a great cause for celebration, especially since the country was swamped with polio cases five years before 2014, a few thousand patients still live with the crippling disease.
The patients, who were infected by polio before it was eradicated from the country, have to live with permanently paralysed lower limbs. For most of them, walking or even standing without support is nearly impossible.
Dr Mathew Varghese, an orthopaedic surgeon based in New Delhi, has shouldered the responsibility of tending to these patients.
Holding a graduate and post-graduate degree in orthopaedic surgery from Maulana Azad Medical College, University of Delhi, Dr Varghese now heads the Department of Orthopaedics in St Stephen’s Hospital in New Delhi.
He also runs India’s last and only polio ward, at the hospital. This ward opened in 1987 and is entirely occupied by polio patients.
Thanks to the widespread awareness and drives for polio vaccinations, the number of patients in the ward has reduced from a few thousand to 200, and Dr Varghese hopes to bring this number to 0 soon.
His work and dedication to the cause, has impressed many people, and recently, a new name got added to the list. On January 4, 2018, Bill Gates posted a video about Dr Varghese in his blog—Gates Notes —and went on to commend Dr Varghese as a real-life hero.
To this, Dr Varghese had a simple reply:
“The recognition doesn’t make a difference to what I do. But yes, I hope that it will inspire more doctors and the youth to take up the cause of assisting in the rehabilitation of polio patients,” he said.
Watch the video of the last polio ward here.