BHANUDAS Mane Deshmukh asks his sons to help him sit up so that he can show them he can move his legs. Lending his father a hand as he proceeds to stand up, Vinayak admonishes, smiling, “Don’t shake them too much!”
Deshmukh is 97, and currently recovering from a surgery to repair a severely crushed spine that paralysed him last year. A follow-up visit on February 1 this year showed he had made remarkable recovery.
Dr Ketan Khurjekar, Head of the Department of Spine Surgery at Sancheti hospital here, who led the operation, told Deshmukh’s sons, “He will be able to walk after regular exercises.”
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Around June last year, Deshmukh started getting pain in his legs, rendering him almost immobile. Doctors found that he was suffering from tandem spinal stenosis, in which neurological compression in numerous areas of the spinal cord leads to functional loss.
Vinayak admits that his father, a farmer from Bondle village in Maharashtra’s Solapur district owning 70 acres, who had been active all his life, found it impossible to lay inert in bed. They are a large family, comprising Deshmukh’s nine children, including two daughters, and several grandchildren.
Says Vinayak, “My father could not lift his legs, passed urine without realising it and was heartbroken over the fact that he could no longer go to the temple and sing bhajans. His elder brother was a freedom fighter and was fit till he died at the age of 99.” Deshmukh’s wife too lived to old age, dying five years ago.
Deshmukh pressed his sons for a surgery. The family also explored a hospital in Solapur and read about the disease on the Net before zeroing in on Sancheti Hospital.
Dr Khurjekar admits that when the family first approached him for the operation, he was sceptical. “Bhanudas had slipped vertebrae, bony outgrowth pressing over the spinal cord, and we were unsure whether a 97-year-old man could sustain anaesthesia.”
Apart from that, repairing the compressed spinal cord in the upper and lower back in a double surgery, over one sitting, was a challenge. The doctors only gave the go-ahead after experts monitored Deshmukh’s vital parameters and found him fit for his first ever surgery.
Vinayak points out that Deshmukh has never suffered from anything more major than fever or cough. “The local ayurvedic doctor would manage all that. He doesn’t have diabetes or hypertension etc, and doesn’t even need spectacles.”
Dr Khurjekar told the family that after surgical decompression, there could be complete recovery of bowel function, and with therapeutic exercises, the patient could walk. That was all the 97-year-old wanted to hear.
After pre-operation procedures that reconfirmed that Deshmukh was in excellent health, he underwent the two-hour-long operation on December 8 last year. While he was discharged after 10 days, a medical team including chief anaesthetist Dr Bharati Adhye and several others monitored him constantly.
Deshmukh, who still enjoys his milk, sugar and bhakri made of jowar or bajra, is now waiting to resume his monthly visits to the temple town of Pandharpur, a distance of 30 km, which he used to cover on foot. “I have missed going there for six months. My time has come again,” he says, flashing a wide smile.