Mangalorean.com is proud to feature Dr. Sadananda Hegde who is the most adored man in this town of Wainuiomata in New Zealand. Whenever this 72 year old surgeon ventures over the hill from his Lower Hutt home, he gets recognition in plenty from former patients, and random hugs too are not uncommon.
Dr. Hegde is the 7th child among eight siblings. He was born on January 05, 1936 to late Ramanna Hegde and late Kusamma Shetty in Brahmavar. He studied in Sagar High school Shimoga and did his subsequent studies in National College Bangalore before joining Mysore Medical college in 1955. After graduating in Medicine, he worked as a lecturer in Mysore Medical College for a year and later worked as a Group Medical Officer at "Anglo-American Direct Tea" trading Company at Anamalais, Coimbatore district for four years. "The hospital here was poorly equipped and severely under- resourced, with fewer than 100 beds to serve the 8000 to 12,000 workers who picked tea at the estate," he recalls.
Dr. Sadananda Hegde is married to Prafulla and together they have three daughters -Archana, Anitha and Beena who are married and settled well. Archana is a Commercial Lawyer, who lives with her family in Sydney, Anitha a Cosmetic Dermatologist also lives in Sydney with her family. Their third daughter Beena lives in New Zealand and she is a Sexual Health specialist at the Wellington Hospital in Wellington. The family has been living in New Zealand for 41 years now.
"There was a personal reason to come to New Zealand," says Dr Hegde. "My eldest daughter Archana had a small hole in her heart. I had heard of a pioneering heart surgeon in Auckland, Sir Brian Barrett-Boyes and I was looking for a good treatment plus I wanted to find some answers for this heart condition, which brought me here" he recalls. It was only in New Zealand and Canada where open heart surgeries were performed during those days. Dr Hegde when he arrived in New Zealand on December 7, 1967, wanted to stay there for only for two years and return back. "I came with my wife and eldest daughter and left my two younger daughters back in Brahmavar with our family. I had never travelled outside India and I was apprehensive about migrating along with my little daughters," he says. Though his daughter did not need treatment for the condition, Dr Hegde never regretted his decision to migrate to New Zealand.
When asked about why he decided to stay after two years he said "This is the country where Honey and Milk flows in a river, Every child was given 5$/week, free education and free health care until they became 18 years of age, so I decided to bring both my younger daughters and settle here," he says.
His first job in New Zealand was at Balclutha Hospital in South Ottago, where he worked for the first three years as a resident medical officer. "If I stayed in hospital, I would see them [patients] once in a while," he said. "That was what I was looking for. If I'd stayed at the hospital, I would have not had that benefit."
After a short stint at a Masterton practice, Dr Hegde moved to Wainuiomata, where he heard there was a shortage of doctors. Dubbed "nappy valley", because of the high number of young solo mothers, the suburb then had only three general practitioners who served the population of about 18,000.
He set up the Hegde Medical Centre on Queen St, where he would practice for more than 30 years, some with his daughter Beena, who is also a doctor, and with help from his wife, Prafulla, who was the receptionist and managed the accounts.
Those were the days when consultation fees were a couple of dollars and doctors made house calls. Dr. Hedge would regularly get up in the middle of the night to deliver newborns.
It was hard work - at one stage he was delivering 100 babies a year. He recalls treating 102 patients in a day as the only doctor on duty.
"There was no rest," he said. "I was hard working and I never turned away any of my patients. Even if there was a knock at the door at 5.30 pm and surgery was closed, we accommodated those people. That was my principle."
Dr Hegde and Mrs Hegde with Governor General Anand Sathyanand and Susan Sathyanand and wife of Indian High Commissioner Catherine Ernest, during their golden wedding anniversary.
Dr Hegde with his family....
...and with his grand children!
Dr. Hegde practised obstetrics till the late 1980s, when a heart attack forced him to slow down and take stock of his own health. He underwent a double bypass operation and, once recovered, continued his work as a GP. However, he was still experiencing chest pain several years later, so he returned to his specialist who found a main artery that was severely constricted. He had a second double bypass in 1996.
It is easy to see why Dr. Hegde is so popular with his patients, who he regards as extended family. His sentences are punctuated with laughter and he chuckles at jokes, both his own and others. Dr. Hegde prides himself on reassuring people who often fear the worst. He sees it as his moral obligation.
"My wife used to say they came with illnesses and when they left they went out laughing because invariably I made some jokes to make them feel comfortable," he said.
Beena, who is now practising at Wellington Sexual Health Service agrees. She was starting out as a GP in her late 20s when she joined her father at the clinic. "I'd be consulting next door and patients would leave my father's room laughing and I'd wonder what was happening in there. He always tried to introduce humour and the feel-good factor." Beena, who worked alongside her father for eight or nine years, said he was a cradle-to-the-grave GP.
"He delivered hundreds of babies to generations of the Wainuiomata community," she says. "People liked going to see someone who knew their history, knew the family and the whole picture. You realise how important people like that are."
In 2002, Dr Hegde moved to Whai Oranga O te Iwi Health Centre, also in Wainuiomata, where he stayed till he retired on December 31, 2007.
Dr Hegde, who has lived in Lower Hutt for the last 15 years, said it has been hard adjusting to life post- medicine. For the first couple of months he felt a bit useless. "Nobody wants me," he said half jokingly. "It was depressing."
But he was getting there, with a new- found passion for playing bridge, a little dabbling in the stock market and attending computer classes with Mrs. Hegde. "We love to browse Mangalorean.com, sitting in this little town far away from our hometown. We try not to miss a single day without reading news about our hometown, we are getting a hang of this computer now," say the Hegdes.
As for his original goal to establish a dedicated practice and provide continuity of care, it looks like Dr. Hegde has succeeded. This can be proved by the fact that he has been nominated for the Queens Service Medal in honour of his service to the community, which will be announced soon.
- 1962: Graduated from Mysore Medical College, India.
- 1963-1967: Group Medical Officer at Madras tea estate hospital.
- 1967: Moved to New Zealand.
- 1967-1970: Resident medical officer, Balclutha Hospital.
- 1971-2002: GP, Hegde Medical Centre, Wainuiomata.
- 2002-2008: GP, Whai Oranga O te Iwi Health Centre, Wainuiomata.
Dr Hegde's message to Mangaloreans across the world is this - "We must have an adventurous spirit and determination. We Kannadigas, have the inherent capacity to succeed. We need to have a high aim in our lives. If you aim to jump 10 feet you can at least cover 8 feet, so be ambitious and pick your aim high. Most importantly we need to keep that inner spirit alive and work hard to achieve our aims."
Dr. Hegde has led the way by working hard and achieving his goals over a period of 40 years. He has overcome all the challenges of his professional and personal life and has left lasting footprints on the shores of a new land, earning the love and respect of the people there. He makes all of us Indians and especially Kannadigas proud.
Mangalorean.com salutes him for the milestones he has achieved in his professional career and personal life and wishes him a happy and peaceful retired life.