Internationally famed neurosurgeon, Premanand Shantaram Ramani from Wadi-Talaulim has recently been announced as the recipient of Gomant Vibhushan Award for 2018 by the government of Goa. In conversation with NT BUZZ Ramani shares his life journey and his plans for Goa
VENITA GOMES | T BUZZ
Q. How has spinal surgery advanced since you began?
After completing my education in England, I came back to India in 1973. I realised that there were innumerable patients with backache due to instability (looseness) in the lumbar spine with no definite answer coming forth. This is the time I felt I needed to develop spinal surgery in India and from then on it was no turning back. I developed my own technique known as ‘PLIF surgery’ to tackle spinal problems. The path was not very smooth. I required lot of bone from abroad for this technique. With the help of technology and two Americans, we developed an authentic ‘Bone Bank’ in India and solved the issue. Over the years, I developed several operative techniques required for instrumentation and necessary implants. Today, spinal surgery is right at the tip of the apex in surgical specialities in the world and I feel contended for spending a dedicated life for the development of spinal surgery in India and putting it on the world map.
Q. What does the Gomant Vibhushan Award mean to you?
More than me the people of Goa are excited about me getting the award. It has become a real ‘buzz’ in Goa. I have received thousands of messages and I am yet to read them. For the first time in my life I have realised that the Goan people love me so much. Some people do feel that it has come rather late as the world has already recognised my contribution. I am now 81-years-old and the recognition by the Government of Goa gives me satisfaction.
Q. What is your experience with neurological disease in Goa? Is Goa, equipped to handle those diseases?
Neurological disease is as common in Goa as it is elsewhere in India. Generally, there is a paucity of neurosurgeons and spinal surgeons in India and particularly in Goa. Technology has advanced immensely and I feel that spinal surgery especially on the spinal cord should be done in a place where the latest technological advance is available. Smaller the state lesser the advancement of its hospitals due to financial constraints. Just to give you one example, I am a microspinal surgeon. I need a microscope to do surgery. Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, where I work even now has been kind enough to recently purchase a new microscope for me costing approximately `3.5 crores.
Q. What is the success and failure rate of neurosurgery?
Neurosurgery is a sophisticated surgery and one needs a co-ordinated team facilitating the procedure. With such facilities, the success in surgery is taken for granted. Once in a while, when success cannot be guaranteed, the surgeon has to talk frankly and openly with the relatives and make them a partner in the surgical procedure. Even if it was not the best procedure it is the success in communication which is very important in medicine.
Q. Does your field experience more cases of youngsters than before?
Absolutely! Lifestyle has changed. People today, are stressed to achieve more and more success at any cost, many times ignoring their body and mind. This is the younger generation below 40 years. The price has to be paid. Neurological diseases are on the rise and backache has become a household name.
Q. You razed your ancestral house and converted it into a library and playroom for children. What got you to reach this decision?
I come from the village – Wadi, Talaluli. I was a very poor boy and did not have toys to play or books to read. I wanted to provide these facilities to the children of my village and the people at large so that they could enjoy their life. I razed our ancestral house and in its place, I built a ground plus one building.
On the ground floor, there is a big library. By the side, there is a children’s playroom full of toys. Children can come in the evening and play with the toys. I have signed a contract with a toy shop which conducts regular visits and replaces the broken toys. In the backyard, I have created a children’s playing garden with swings, slides etc. On the first floor there is a medical room and a hall of 150 capacities where people and ladies self-help group hold various activities like yoga, bhajans, pravachans, lecture, birthdays etc. I too periodically organise dancing classes, painting competitions, workshops, essay competitions for students, etc. I have built a separate building housing a gymnasium as well.
I have also built an international size cricket ground with pavilion on the hill. Cricket matches and tournaments are held continuously and this year even an IPL type tournament was held on this ground. To promote good discipline and health we conduct marathons. The Dr Ramani Goa Marathon which has been held for the past 19 years is now iconic in Goa. I also hold regular free camps in Goa, for the past 44 years.
Q. How have you worked towards maintaining a balance between your personal and professional life?
I am married for the past 49 years and even today my wife and I have the same regard for each other like we had in the beginning. Our two children have great respect for us. Practically every week, we meet up to see our children and grand-children. In life, there is no substitute for success but it has to be achieved with love, compassion, family bonding, social bonding, respect for each other and maintaining one’s integrity. To give one example, my wife was born and brought up in the most populous Girgaon area in Mumbai and with 15 family members living in a reasonably small flat. When we got married, I brought her to England. It is a common knowledge that English weather is cold as are the English people. One does not know who is living in the next flat. Against this background, my wife had to spend even up to 48 hours alone in the flat while I was busy at the hospital. My wife was considerate and understood the fact that I was in England for a purpose. There was no breach in the bond. Such an attitude has kept us bonded till now.
Q. What are your future plans?
I want to encourage the Dilasa Hospital built by doctors in Ponda to treat terminally ill patients. It is a yeoman and human service provided by them. I have been already been helping it and will continue to be associated with it. Also, recently it has been brought to my notice by the bird lovers of Goa that there are 136 varieties of birds in my village of Wadi. I was amazed. With their co-operation I want to build a bird sanctuary in Wadi. I love butterflies and if possible I will request them to also create a butterfly garden.