Sreedhareeyam Brings Light Into The World Of Those Whose Lives Turned Dark
It was in December 2000, I was diagnosed with Uveitis with Vasculitis and peripheral neovascularization. After being treated with Prednisone, a steroid, upto 100 mg per day, though my vision had improved, it had inflicted several side-effects on my entire physical as well as mental health. My treatment at the National Health Institute in Maryland for nearly two years did not help in preventing the degeneration of my vision. Several surgeries that included a cataract and laser-surgeries, as well as Vitrectomy, did not help me contain the deterioration of my vision. Finally, in 2002, my eye specialist in Connecticut told me one day, “Ajay, you will lose your vision in right eye fully in the next 2-3 years.” I was completely shocked! I was desperate to find alternative treatment options to save my vision.
My search for restoring my vision led me to seek Ayurvedic treatment at Sreedhareeyam Eye Hospital, an endeavor by a Namboodiri family with traditional experiences and talents in Ayurveda treatment especially in the treatment of eye diseases.
After undergoing three weeks each of in-patient treatment four times in two years at Sreedhareeyam, my vision showed signs of improvement. The inflammation on the retina was substantially reduced and the damage to the optic nerve was contained, with the peripheral vision improving marginally, which I thought, was the biggest achievement of the treatment I had received at Sreedhareeyam. The cataract on my eyes and the pressure on my eyes remain elevated. Medical staff led by Superintendent at Sreedhareeyam, Dr. N P P Namboothiri, a famous eye physician and the mentor and guide at the hospital, helped me “restore” my vision. Since 2003, I have been visiting Sreedhareeyam every year and continuing to receive treatment on an ongoing basis.
At Sreedhareeyam, where more than two dozen trained eye-specialists with degrees in Medicine, the primary focus has been on Ayurvedic treatments for numerous eye diseases, but they also all types of illnesses. However, specialized treatments are given for the various diseases affecting the positions above the neck. Most of the eye diseases, which have got no treatment in modern medicine, have been successfully treated here. People come here from all strata of society and from all corners of the world. Most of the patients here at this nearly 200-bed hospital are those who have tried the regular Western medicines and have been given up as having no cure for their problems. Just like me, most of them choose to come here as the final resort, and hope that Sreedhareeyam is the answer to many of their eye diseases.
“Results from the treatment here are the only publicity we do,” says Dr. N P P Namboothiri. “Our ever-increasing number of patients is a witness to the impact of the treatment patients receive here. Our publicity is by word-of-mouth only of these success stories.”
There have been a number of instances at Sreedhareeyam where success was found while it was only failure that the patients met with in other systems of medicine. According to Dr. Narayanan Namboodiri, the Medical Director, it’s all miracles in the sense that all these helped manifest the capabilities of Ayurveda in an area of health care that needs specialization. A large number of such cases from the long history of the hospital stand testimony to the supremacy of Ayurveda system of medicine over other systems in treatment of eye diseases.
“At Sreedhareeyam, ours is a humble attempt to treat the disease and annihilate it through the way of nature,” says Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri, who treats patients from the same room in Naalukettu, where he was born over 40 years ago. “Patients from all over the world come here for various eye diseases, including those suffering from Cataract, Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, and Diabetic Retinopathy. We strive to give them our best, trusting in God’s power to heal them,” the gentle-speaking Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri says.
Dr. Narayanan Namboothiri is highly popular for his accurate diagnosis of the problems his patients and the right kind of treatment he prescribes. While I was hospitalized at Sreedhareeyam, one of my childhood friends came to visit me. When I shared with him about the treatment there, he expressed interest in getting treatment for his eyes. During his first and only meeting with Dr. Narayanan, my friend told him about the constant pain in his eyes and the head ache he suffered several times a week. After examining his eyes with his hand-held tiny torch, Dr. Namboothiri told him that his eyes were in perfect condition and he had no need for any medication. “Do apply hair oil on your head before bath daily, and you will not have any pain in your eyes and no head ache.” It nearly eight since then, and my friend has had no complaints of pain.
All the treatments offered at Sreedhareeyam are unique in the sense that the medicines used for all these treatments are produced at the Manufacturing Unit of the hospital. “The ingredients of the medicine as well as the treatment procedures are all according to those parchments (‘thaliyolas’) and ancient books (‘grandhas’), which counts among the traditional and precious assets owned by the Mana,” Dr. N.P.P Namboothiri, the Chief Physician at the Hospital says.
“At Sreedhareeyam, we strive to maintain and cultivate the hospital into a shrine of hope for hundreds of people who seeks cure from their various and mysterious ailments. Fortunately, due to our long history of successes, we have an astounding number of patients coming in daily from the length and breadth of the country, seeking cure,” Dr. N.P.P. Namboodiri says.
“In the field of the treatment of eye diseases, we desire to rank ourselves from an international perspective. The history of the miraculous cures at Sreedhareeyam and our eminent panel of doctors proclaim our supremacy in this field. With all our expertise and resources, we foresee a wider dimension for our services to the society in the future,” the physician says with a sense of pride and hope. In the wake of the prevailing situation, Sreedhareeyam, according to Dr. Namboothiri, “aspires for a wider participation on a large scale in the battle to annihilate darkness of human eye from the face of earth.
The research center is studying several manuscripts on ayurveda, found all over the State and putting them in order. Most medicinal plants are grown in the Koothattukulam campus, where the ancestral home of the vaidyas. Medicines are also manufactured here under the supervision of Narayanan Namboothiri, the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital.
Ayurveda, the science of life, has brought true health and wellness to millions of individuals throughout the ages with simple changes in daily living practices. This ancient art of healing has been practiced continuously for over 5,000 years. Ayurvedic practices restore the balance and harmony of the individual, resulting in self-healing, good health and longevity. Incorporating just a few of these proven methods into one’s lifestyle has brought about radical changes in the lives of millions.
The understanding that we are all unique individuals enables Ayurveda to address not only specific health concerns but also offers explanation as to why one person responds differently than another. Ayurveda uses herbs and spices like basil, turmeric, garlic, ginger and aloe vera, as well as yoga exercises, to treat physical and psychological problems.
The interest in Ayurveda has grown steadily in the past few decades, and many more people from across the world are seeking Ayurvedic treatment in India and across the world. For too many, who have been “given up” by the Western medicine, the first choice of treatment, Ayurveda offers an “alternate” option of treatment and hundreds of thousands seek and find solutions to their physical and mental illnesses.
Interest in Ayurveda in the United States began in the 1970’s, largely as the result of efforts by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi organization of Transcendental Meditation. Interest continued to grow as Indian physicians came to the United States in the 1980’s. Among these physicians were Dr. Vasant Lad, Dr. Sunil Joshi and Dr. B.D. Triguna. In the late 1980’s Dr. Deepak Chopra wrote “Perfect Health”, his famous introductory book on Ayurveda for the general public. This opened the door of India ‘s ancient healing science for many Westerners. Furthermore, several American pioneers helped attract attention to Ayurveda and influence its growth.
They include Dr. David Frawley, of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, and Dr. Robert Svoboda, a Westerner who completed India ‘s BAMS program. As interest and awareness grew, training programs of various degrees emerged. In 1995, the California College of Ayurveda was founded and was the first State-approved practitioner training program in the United States.
The National Ayurvedic Medical Association is the major body in the United States representing the Ayurvedic profession. A non-profit association, it was founded in 1998 by four individuals: Dr. Marc Halpern of the California College of Ayurveda, Wynn Werner, of the Ayurvedic Institute, Kumar Batra, and Cynthia Copple. Indians trained Ayurvedic physicians who come to the United States on a work visa or through immigration may practice Ayurveda within a allowable scope.
Experts predict that hundreds of herbs used for centuries by traditional healers in India could soon be on western pharmacy shelves. With 15,000 plant species, India is well placed to increase its share of the $75billion global market in medicinal plants, which is growing by at least 7% a year. The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched a series of studies to test the health claims surrounding a variety traditional medicines. Clinical trials have shown that herbal remedies for asthma, diabetes and even sexually transmitted diseases may be effective. The council is looking at treatments for a range of other conditions used for over a thousand years by practitioners of Ayurveda and Siddha medicine.
Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a member of the council, said that in some cases the herbs may be more effective than Western-style medicines. “We have plants for bronchial asthma, hepatitis and arthritis,” he said. “We have other plants which have been shown to be effective for treating sexually transmitted diseases and they have been used in that way by tribal populations for centuries. We have herbs where you can relieve headache, fever, gastroenteritis, sneezing and coughing. These conditions can easily be alleviated.”
Professor Chaudhury acknowledged that in some cases the council will be unable to prove that the herbs work. This is because many of the remedies are based on a combination of plants which taken on their own would not be effective. “There are hundreds of herbs but we are unable at the moment to do very good testing for combinations of plants. “In the Ayurvedic system they use usually combinations. But testing combinations with modern technology is difficult.”
The world as a whole is switching over from chemical drugs to natural drugs because they are non-narcotic, they have no side-effects and are easily available. The world is interested in simpler and gentler therapies – especially for ageing, the problem of obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders, cardiac diseases and digestive problems.
Even as the ancient ayurveda science is becoming increasingly popular, it has encountered several hurdles too. Lack of funding for research has limited its growth and wider use. However, utilizing the available on going research, basing them on the ancient wisdom of the Rishis and Munis, and availing the few encouraging measures from the government of India,
The Ayurvedic profession is growing steadily in the United States of America, just as is in and around the world. Educational institutions are becoming more established and the Associations are working to give the profession a voice and address regulation issues. Ayurveda is likely to continue to grow in America and take its rightful place among the other licensed health care professions. And, institutes such as Sreedhareeyam continue to show the way in popularizing Ayurveda and continue to bring sight to millions like me, who are on the brink of losing their vision.