Dr George Teturswamy

Dr George Teturswamy moved into Mellor in 1986 following his appointment as consultant anaesthetist in Blackburn. Since then he has volunteered his services to improve the health of people in his home country of India by improving anaesthetic facilities and organising clinics to operate on those affected with cleft lips and palate.

This is his story:

On an October day in 1995 when progress was slow in the operating theatre in the old Queens Park Hospital, Mike Ward, a friend and operating department nurse, came to me and said “Do you think we can go to a country where we may make a difference?” I went home and rang Mike asking if he meant what he said? He said “Yes, yes, yes I meant it.”

At the weekend I was reading a Rotary magazine and saw an article by a Mr. F Tovey, a retired surgeon at Basingstoke District Hospital, which incidentally was the first hospital I worked at when I arrived in England in 1974. Mr. Tovey is a great missionary having worked in China before moving to India in 1957 where he worked in the Mysore Mission Hospital for 17 years, and still leads a fund raising committee supporting the hospital in an enormous way. Mysore Mission Hospital was originally built around 1953 in the poorer part of the town for Muslim women and children. Over the years, Mr. Tovey with help both from friends in England and from the Maharaja of Mysore, turned the place into a general hospital, caring for all poor in the community. In 1995 when they were short of an anaesthetist and equipment I was asked if I could help.

After a lengthy conversation I spoke to Mike who was thrilled and started work .We e-mailed all hospitals for equipment and in a period of six months accumulated a huge amount of material which we had to ship to Mysore before we left to travel to India ourselves.

In September 1996 we made our first visit to Mysore where on arrival Mike had a severe attack of Delhi belly and wanted to return the next day. However he stayed for 4 weeks and was joined by his wife Carol after 2 weeks. We reorganised their anaesthetic service, with our equipment, almost modernising the department and started a school for training anaesthetic nurses which thanks to Mike’s interest is still flourishing today.

We went there again in 1997 and found their theatre equipment sterilising autoclave had been made in the 1940s and serviced annually by an Englishman living in Bombay but since his death no one knew how to maintain this equipment. With the help of the Rotary Clubs of Blackburn Borough and Mysore we organised a fund raising effort, which together with a matching amount from Rotary International, a sum of £8,000 was raised enabling a modern stainless steel steriliser to be bought for the hospital.

We went every year to see the difference we had made. In 2001 we went to a village in Mysore and noticed 20 young children playing outside a primary school, some of them with cleft lip and palates. Upon enquiry we were told there were many more children and adults with similar defects. I knew they would not have the defect repaired, as they could not afford surgery.

Mike asked if we could do a cleft camp. So, on our return to England I started making enquiries. I spoke to a Mr. Smythe, a cleft surgeon in Leeds, who was happy to go with us to Mysore. We soon put a team together and started fund raising. In Mysore advertising was commenced in the villages and when we arrived in town the team was very excited. When we entered the outpatient department and saw 50 patients all with the deformity some our team members were overwhelmed.

We successfully undertook 36 cases which was hard work but very rewarding. A statement made by a 16 year old who spoke English will stay in my memory all my life. After thanking the surgeon, she said she may now find a job and after a moment’s hesitation she said “I may even get married”. In the society we live in, all is taken for granted, but in the other world help is needed.

We have since conducted three camps in Mysore, two camps in Hyderabad and a camp in Kerala. All this is possible through the generosity of friends, members of the public and various organisations that have generously donated to help us. It costs £350 to operate and provide follow up treatment. My sincere thanks to all who have supported us over the years and please continue your support as giving a start in life is vital.

George Teturswamy.