By Anjali Nauriyal
Republic Day brought one of the best news of my life. Dr Yogi’s name was announced as one of the recipients from Uttarakhand. For me personally it has been a vindication of years of belief in his noble mission. It has been soul stirring to witness Dr Yogi Aeron working for decades to heal wounds of burn victims with single -minded devotion. He has been working zealously for decades now to change lives at his Interplast Surgical Outreach Center, that functioned for years at Jakhan and later shifted to Jangal Mangal his mountainside retreat. Most of the burn deformities or cleftlip cases he has treated were grotesque and irreversible, but he carried his treatment on in the hope of bringing some light into the lives of the sufferers who came to him expecting miracles. Since 2003 he along with his son Kush has been holding free reconstructive surgery camps at their centre with help from Interplast, the well known international humanitarian organization that is working in developing countries to ameliorate the pain and turmoil of children and youngsters battered physically and emotionally after suffering near fatal burns. Dr Aeron informs that so far they have held seven free camps and treated thousands of patients successfully. “Ït was my elder son Luv and his wife Deepshika who live abroad, who chanced upon Interplast USA, the only agency that conducts free plastic surgery for post burn deformities,” he recalls. “Upon their request members of Interplast then agreed to visit Doon and then invited me over for training in the US. Thereafter we have been holding regular camps. We facilitate the travel of a team of about 14 members to Doon, twice a year with they arrive with their entire gadgetry, that fits in approximately 40 boxes, and travel at their own cost all the way to our country, and more specifically Doon to work on the distressed at our centre. Our centre has so far treated hundreds of patients from the remotest Himalayan areas even as far as the China border.” It is unfortunate, avers Dr Yogi Aeron, that because of life style and inaccessibility, this region has the highest percentage of post burn deformities in the world. Prior to 2003, for over 35 years Dr. Yogi Aeron has cared for the people of Dehradun. He observes that much has changed in thë past three decades. In the early days, he functioned from home. “My wife would sterilize the surgical instruments in a portable autoclave set up on a kerosene stove.” Yogi, who graduated from King George’s Medical College in 1967 and later obtained a master’s degree in plastic and reconstructive surgery in 1971 from Prince of Wales Medical College and Hospital, refreshed his cleft craft from Dr. R. Millard in Miami in 1982. From 2000 until 2006, Yogi again visited and trained with various plastic surgeons in the United States. Yogi brings his decades of experience and specialized training to his partnership with Interplast. Today, he serves as a valuable plastic surgeon helping change lives. As in most developing countries, burns comprise a large part of his practice, along with cleft repairs. He is committed to the region’s poor. He founded Helping Hands to provide medical care to the poor and needy and, now, through Interplast he is able to extend his altruistic reach. Some of his accomplishments include doing the world’s largest series of reconstruction of bear bite cases (12) and designing 10 new reconstructive flaps. The younger Aeron states that he got into plastic surgery by chance, but now it is his choice to follow in his father’s mission. Kush, grew up seeing his father and mother work within the four walls of their small home. Infact the family and the patients at one time shared the same toilets. Today Kush is an integral part of the Doon Interplast Surgical Outreach Center. The father-son duo work in tandem, but wonder how long they would be able to continue their work. Dr Yogi is particularly miffed about the fact that the state authorities do not accord due welcome to the foreign guests when they come to work in their city, at their cost to heal their own people. “”Yes there have been occasional thank you (s), but there is no one from the government to welcome them or even convey a word of thanks,” Yogi Aeron articulates. “As it is we have very poor technical and other support in our city , and if to top it all we are thankless, then our foreign guests will discontinue coming, and this will be most unfortunate. My only demand is that someone in authority, must at least thank Interplast members for their selfless services.” Dr Aeron is all praises for the officials of the Education Department, who help them identify cases that can be worked on. The Interplast Surgical Outreach Center may have treated a countless number of cases, but there are thousands more cases waiting for treatment in Uttarakhand, and this is the worry of the Aerons. “Most of them are school going children who have got burnt in home fires. In the hills living conditions are difficult and families live in single room setups with kitchen and firewood in the same space. This results in mishaps that can be life threatening. “’ Amongst Dr Yogi’s patients is Mamta Kentura from village Malli Rigoli in Tehri Garhwal. She sustained burns when she was just one month of age. But it was only after 27 years that she sought treatment. The Aerons have been working on her for long now and have given her the most beautiful face possible. Since her treatment is prolonged Dr Aeron decided to offer her employment at the Outreach Center. Mamta has been under reconstructive surgery for years now. She will require many more years of treatment and healing under her saviour doctor.