- Monday, 08 August 2011 00:00
- Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2011 16:29
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Thirteen-year old Sri Lankan, Sewwandhi, has congenital scoliosis. With help from Tzu Chi Sri Lanka and Singapore, she had the opportunity to undergo an operation at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC). Now, she should have more confidence in her future.
"Thank you, doctor and all of you for helping me. I am truly grateful that I can finally walk normally and go to school like others!"
On August 5, 2011, Sewwandhi was overwhelmed with joy because Tzu Chi volunteers held a party for her at the hospital. The medical team, who performed the surgery on her, was also present!
Sewwandhi presented a drawing she had drawn to the medical team.
"Wow! Prof. Kwan, this is you!"
"Ha! Ha! Look at this! The picture she drew really looks like you..."
"This one is xxx!"
Everyone was guessing who is who on the drawings.
Sewwandhi had kept her promise to thank each and everyone who had helped her.
Why do I look like this?
Before 8 am on July 18, 2011, three volunteers from Kuala Lumpur were at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to welcome their guests.
Finally, Sewwandhi and her mother, Shanthi, and Tzu Chi Sri Lanka's volunteer, Pathumi, appeared. Despite being greeted with friendly smiles, the mother and daughter looked nervous.
"Why do I look like this? When can I find a cure?" were two frequent questions posed by Sewwandhi to her mom who could not give her an answer.
Since Sewwandhi was two, Shanthi had been seeking treatment and medical advice everywhere for her daughter. Be it western medicine or traditional therapy, she never missed the chance to try.
"When we were told that it was going to cost a huge amount of money to do the operation, both my husband and I were upset. No matter how hard we tried to save or borrow, there was no way that we could come out with that amount of money," Shanthi said in tears. Living with a disfigurement had seriously hindered Sewwandhi's chance to lead a normal life, so she kept to herself.
Sewwandhi's father, Chandrakeeth, is a soldier, who lost his left leg during a civil war. His meager salary could barely sustain a family of four, not to mention the need to find the funds for his daughter's medical treatment.
Sewwandhi loves reading and enjoys schooling. Her ambition is to be a teacher.
"My classmates are nice to me. They always encourage me and are willing to help me!"
Despite the assistance from her classmates, Sewwandhi still found it difficult to cope with the daily trials of living with her disfigurement. Unable to run, jump or exercise, she could only sit and watch her friends play.
Shanthi was heartbroken to see the sadness in her daughter. But, she always encouraged and showed her caring for Sewwandhi. She said, "I always tell her that she must accept her loss and find hope in her studies!"
Wish comes true after 13 years
There are, in fact, many people suffering from scoliosis in Sri Lanka. But, there are only a handful of medical professionals who can provide complete treatment for this illness. So Chandrakeeth and Shanthi could only pray for a miracle for their daughter.
"One day a friend told us that maybe Tzu Chi can help!" Shanthi said. She then obtained the phone number from a friend and made the contact.
Not long after, on December 20, 2010, a few Sri Lankan volunteers went to Sewwandhi's house. They then met Mr David Liu, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore.
"When Mr David saw my daughter, he told us not to worry. He said that my daughter's illness can be treated in Malaysia and he was going to arrange it for us, with Tzu Chi bearing all fees incurred," Shanthi smiled when recalling the day she met Mr David Liu.
The conversation at Shanthi's house made everyone excited. Shanthi was touched when they heard that Tzu Chi could lend a helping hand at such short notice. No other organizations are as effective as Tzu Chi, according to Shanthi.
Sewwandhi was then regarded as a care-recipient of Tzu Chi. Since then, volunteers paid frequent visits on the family with whom they also shared the activities carried out by Tzu Chi in society. A local Tzu Chi volunteer, Arosha, never stopped caring for the family. When Tzu Chi Sri Lanka Chapter organized its "2010 year-end Blessing Ceremony" in January this year, Sewwandhi and her family were all invited to attend.
The family also got to know more and more about Tzu Chi. Sewwandhi knew that she would have to endure suffering throughout the process of her treatment, but she still wanted to give it a try.
A journey to recovery
Prof. Kwan Mun Keong, an Associate Professor of UMMC-cum-Orthopaedic (Spinal) Consultant, teamed up with Dr Saw Lim Beng and six other medical professionals to handle Sewwandhi's case.
According to Prof. Kwan, the corrective surgery is to prevent the progressive deterioration of her scoliosis and compression of the surrounding organs, besides the overall appearance.
The medical team gave a thorough explanation of the whole surgery to the family; and Tzu Chi volunteers were also on hand to give their full mental support to increase the family's confidence in this operation. "I must trust the doctors here…" said Shanthi, who could not do anything except have her faith in them.
Sewwandhi's operation was performed on July 21. While the medical team was fixing screws and rods onto Sewwandhi's spine, Shanthi was praying outside the operating theatre. It took them 8 hours to perform the operation.
After the operation, Sewwandhi's look improved and she could finally walk normally. Shanthi was thrilled to see the difference after the surgery despite the doctor's request to have Sewwandhi put on a support for three months.
"I must do well in my studies, and I want to help others just like Tzu Chi helps others," Sewwandhi whispered to the volunteers. She was grateful for all that Tzu Chi had done for her. For Shanthi, to find the improvement in her beloved daughter's condition was her life's turning point.
During the recovery period, Sewwandhi and her mother stayed at the UMMC hostel. Tzu Chi volunteers took turns to visit them daily.
Knowing that Sewwandhi likes to read, volunteer Yang Mei Qing gave her a few books from home and some volunteers also decided to give her a surprise party on the day her stitches were removed.
The volunteers prepared refreshments like curry, fried items, cakes and coffee for the party.
"We know what children like, so we prepared these items for her," Yang Mei Qing made the cake and many other dishes as well.
"I must thank Master Cheng Yen for all these. My daughter would not have been here without her. I wish her longevity and good health!"
The medical team and Tzu Chi volunteers then happily sang the ‘Happy Birthday" song to Sewwandhi.
"I will miss Malaysia. The doctors and volunteers are very nice to me!"
Before the doctors and nurses walked out of the room, Sewwandhi ran forward and gave each of them a hug. Prof. Kwan kept reminding Shanthi on how to take care of Sewwandhi after the operation.
We wish Sewwandhi all the very best and may she be happy and well always.
Sewwandhi (2nd right), Shanthi (1st left) and Tzu Chi Sri Lanka's volunteer, Pathumi (2nd left), were met by Malaysian volunteer at the airport.【Photograph by Cheong Huey Chiat 】
An X-ray picture of Sewwandhi's spinal condition before operation.【Photograph provided by UMMC】
A party was organised by Tzu Chi volunteers at the hospital to celebrate Sewwandhi's recovery.【Photograph by Gan Chian Nee】
The doctors autographed the "Thank You" card drawn by Sewwandhi.【Photograph by Gan Chian Nee】
Volunteer Yang Mei Qing brought story books for Sewwandhi.【Photograph by Gan Chian Nee】
At the airport, an album containing pictures taken during their stay in Kuala Lumpur was given to Sewwandhi and Shanthi before their departure.【Photograph by Cheong Huey Chiat 】