By Asif Noorani
The success story of the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation), starting on a modest scale and growing into a state-of-the-art medical and surgical hospital with impressive research and training facilities, gives you the feeling that all is not lost with this country. It is heartening that here is a government institution, run by a qualified and well-trained team of inspired and dedicated personnel, which offers free treatment to thousands of poor patients. What is more, they are all treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and are made to feel that medical treatment is their birth right.
The SIUT and its journey is documented by Zubeida Mustafa in the coffee table book, The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible. During the research for the book, Mustafa spoke not just with medical practitioners but also with kidney donors and many patients who have been treated successfully. With donations and help in cash and kind flowing from individuals and corporate bodies who have trust in the integrity and capability of the people running the institution, not many plans had to be dropped owing to lack of finances.
One can’t think of the SIUT without picturing a grey-haired man who wears a smile with as much ease as he dons the white coat. The man is none other than Professor Adibul Hasan Rizvi, who is an epitome of motivation and enthusiasm. He infuses these two qualities in his team in ample measure. Those who were influenced by Dr Rizvi have mostly stayed with him but some of them, such as Dr Noor Ahmed Baloch and Dr Ahmed Ali Laghari, have moved to other institutions to let them benefit from the training and experiences gained at the SIUT. These two surgeons joined their parent institution, Chandka Medical College, Larkana.
The second-in-command at the SIUT is Dr Anwar Naqvi, who, as a young medical graduate, started working at a relief camp established for flood victims at Chauhar Jamali in southern Sindh in 1973. He was so moved by Dr Rizvi’s missionary zeal that he joined the SIUT.
Another such example is that of Dr Shahjahan, who laid the foundations for the laboratory. Under his stewardship the laboratory progressed to rank among the best in the region. Dr Rizvi maintains that it was Dr Shahjahan’s seminal work in diagnosis that made transplantation possible at the SIUT.
Mustafa also tells us about Naveed Anwar “who made medical history in Pakistan. In 1998, he became the country’s first deceased organ donor.” The young man had been highly vocal in advocating organ donation. He met with a road accident and suffered brain damage. Thanks to his family, Anwar’s lungs saved the lives of two individuals.
Thirteen years before that “an indigenous team” carried out the first transplant. Rasheed, a young man from Azad Kashmir, was the first person to benefit from the knowledge gained by the team. Recalls Azra Mushtaq, who attended to Rasheed in the crucial post-operative days, “we were given very detailed instructions on sterilisation and were careful for we didn’t want anything to go wrong.” In those days there were no state-of-the-art infection-free cooking facilities at the SIUT, so Dr Rizvi’s wife, Dr Hajira, took the responsibility of having Rasheed’s meals prepared at her own house under her strict supervision.
Dr Murli Lal, who joined the SIUT as a junior medical graduate in 1985, when he too was charmed by Dr Rizvi, recalls those early days: “we would perform one transplant and then wait till the patient had recovered and gone home before the next transplant was even planned. Today we are doing 12 transplants a week.”
In 1972, the SIUT began as an eight-bed genito-urology surgery ward. Today the number of beds is to the tune of 498 and operation theatres have gone up to 20, and are spread over three buildings. In 2011, as many as 843,000 patients benefited from the various facilities that the institute offers. The staff strength has also gone up to more than 1,400. More mind-boggling figures are mentioned on the back cover of the book: “In one year 842,000 [the number slightly differs from the one mentioned inside the book], 4,219 lithotripsy sessions were conducted; 187,284 dialysis sessions held, 356 transplantations performed; 203,216 radiology tests done; 6,086,547 laboratory investigations carried out.”
Many satellite medical centres have also been commissioned. Just one example of the philanthropy the institution has benefited from is of a newly-built hospital in Korangi given to the SIUT. Thus patients in need of dialysis in that locality are saved from commuting to and from the SIUT in downtown Karachi.
The SIUT has also established a full-fledged hospital in Sukkur, which caters to the medical needs of patients from Balochistan and upper Sindh. Dr Rizvi goes there once a week. He travels both ways by train at night so that he can be back at work the following morning. The SIUT trains postgraduate doctors, medical technologists and nurses on the staff, as well as those from other institutions in Pakistan and other SAARC countries. Educationist Anita Ghulam Ali calls the hospital “a First World health facility in the Third World.”
Mustafa’s book is also a model of excellence. The paper quality as well as the printing, layouts and images are all superb. Her team also deserves no less than full marks. The sales proceeds from the book are donated to the SIUT. Publications on other institutions that are providing similar commendable services to economically under-privileged patients should also be produced.
The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible (Health) By Zubeida Mustafa ISBN 978-969-9832-00-0. 186pp.