On a mission to combat Epilepsy
Dr. Nagendra Sharma, a neurosurgeon, has been religiously championing the cause of getting the western Rajasthan rid of one of the biggest and most inhuman social scar, the prevalence of the disease of Epilepsy since 1999.
Many in this world are born with a vision, many have this vision thrusted upon themselves but there area few, who observe their surroundings very minutely and compassionately that they identify the area, where something really needs to be done and then buckle down to achieve their mission with formidable dedication. Dr. Nagendra Sharma, a neurosurgeon, has been religiously championing the cause of getting the western Rajasthan rid of one of the biggest and most inhuman social scar, the prevalence of the disease of Epilepsy since 1999. Though a mental disease, the Epilepsy is treated as a possession of the patient by some evil spirit in this region, largely due to illiteracy and the relatives are more prone to take the patient to a so-called exorcist (religious men) instead of taking him or her to a doctor owing to rampant superstitions. But the interference of Sharma has brought a sizable change in this mentality.
Born in March 1954, Nagendra Sharma had his schooling completed with flying colours. With a dream to become a doctor and serve the society, he took admission in the S. N. Medical College, Jodhpur. After completing his MBBS in 1973 from here he further secured his M. S. (General Surgery) in 1983 from the same college. Followed by this, Nagendra achieved M. Ch. in Neurosurgery in 1987 from the KEM Hospital, Mumbai. Despite having brighter opportunities in bigger cities and even abroad, he decided to return to his motherland with a view to serve the people in and around Jodhpur considering the tremendous lack of adequate neurosurgical facilities in the region. Soon during his practice as a neurosurgeon, he came across the deplorable state of the patients suffering from Epilepsy in the western part of the state. Acute prevalence of the social evils and illiteracy further worsened the condition of these patients, who were forced to live a deserted life getting subjected to inhuman behaviour. The consequences of this disease bore devastating impact on the social fabric, resulting in the breaking of the existing marriages, estrangement in the families, discontinuation in the studies etc. thereby weakening of the socio-economic milieu of the entire region. More over, the prevailing superstitions further aggravated the situation as people were constantly made to believe the disease, an onslaught of some evil spirit. The condition of women and girls under the effect of Epilepsy, in particular, empathized him tremendously.
Pained by this situation, Dr. Sharma decided to do something to improve the condition of the patients, who hardly ever reached to the doctor for permanent relief. Making it a mission of his life as a doctor, he started roaming in the affected areas for the elimination of the myths associated with the disease and convincing the people to treat it as a disease curable through proper medical treatment. Finally he came up with an idea of holding free monthly camps for these patients and started with his first camp in February 1999. It was a challenge to make this camp a success and expect a huge turnout of the patients but unfazed, Dr. Sharma did not give in. Started with 40-50 patients he started holding the camps regularly on the 30 of every month. His efforts bore fruits and gradually he earned a sobriquet of and “Exorcist Doctor” (Bhoot bhagane wala doctor) in the region. His popularity started growing and the number of patients started swelling, which has now reached about 300 patients per camp. The excellent care and free treatment turned Dr. Sharma, a godly person, in the eyes of the people and the number of the patients has crossed 80000 in two decades of his mission. Seeing the resumption of the broken family relations, many boys and girls getting married and children restarting their studies brings an unprecedented satisfaction on his face.
Despite this stunning result of his efforts, he does not show any sign of satisfaction and has now set a dream to make the entire world free from Epilepsy. Taking his mission on second stage of action, he has set up “World without Epilepsy Foundation”, which has commenced its work in the form of approaching the organizations and people across the globe with a similar mission under an expansion strategy of its purview. With the completion of a decade of his mission, he has now started preparing and training the volunteers to further ensure the penetration of the medical assistance to the patients living in the remote and small hamlets of the villages in the bordering areas.
He has also authored a book on the Epilepsy in Hindi titled as “Manav Mastishkaur Mirgi” for which he has been bestowed upon with the prestigious “Hindi Sewa Samman” by the Language and Library department of the Rajasthan Government. He has also been honoured by the “Veer Durgadas Rathore Samiti for providing free medication to the poor and villagers. For his excellent contribution in spreading awareness towards environment, he has been awarded with the “Vrikshabandhupuraskar”. He has also been adjudged “Marwar Ratna” for holding the health awareness programs. Being a good writer, he has written a number of articles and write ups in Hindi, which has earned him the award of “Media Fellow” by the then Medical and Health minister of the state Dr. Digamber Singh. The awards and honours also include pharmaceutical companies and the district administration, who have recognized his endeavours to serve the deprived. He is a regular participant in the conferences and workshops. So far, he has presented 3 papers and published 8 papers apart from serving brief stint of 6 years as a teacher in the hospitals in Mumbai and Jodhpur.
His dedication to the cause has got him appointed as a member of the Management Board of the Rajasthan Health University for the 3 years by the state government. He is also life member of the NSI and Pediatric Neurosurgical Society of India.
But these awards, honours and positions have not distracted him from his goal and he is firmly pitched on his path to the Epilepsy free world. He is constantly busy devising new plans and strategy to achieve his objective, provide maximum benefits to the patients and reach out to more and more patients so that they can lead a respectable and socially acceptable life.