Sandeep Is Doing Well—Updates From India

By Zhu Xiu-lian and Lin Jing-jun
Translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photos courtesy of Tzu Chi Hualien headquarters

Photo by Hsiao Yiu-hwa

Sumanti Devi lives in Rajgir, in the Indian state of Bihar. In late March of this year, she received a pleasant surprise when Tzu Chi volunteers visited her home. But it wasn’t their first visit. She cheerfully shared updates on her son Sandeep Kumar, who had received medical care with Tzu Chi’s help: “Sandeep is now in good health. He participated in a running competition a few days ago and came in first place. His academic performance, however, still needs improvement.” The mother expressed her appreciation for the ongoing support from Tzu Chi, noting that whenever volunteers passed by Rajgir, they made sure to drop in, treating them like family. “We’re truly grateful for everyone’s care and support for Sandeep. Please convey our thanks to Master Cheng Yen,” she added.

Sandeep, now attending a government school, held the hand of a volunteer and guided the visitors to his room. There, in the volunteers’ presence, he wrote numbers and flipped through picture books. The boy aspired to become a teacher. The volunteers encouraged him to study diligently to achieve his dream.

Sandeep’s connection with Tzu Chi goes back to 2022. That year, a Tzu Chi team in Taiwan producing a musical sutra adaptation arranged to capture video footage of significant locations in the Buddha’s life to show on stage. These locations included Rajgir, one of the Enlightened One’s most important preaching sites. When the team later reported the production’s progress to Dharma Master Cheng Yen and presented their video footage, one of the segments taken in Rajgir unintentionally showed a thin little boy with a disproportionately large abdomen. Recognizing that he must have been suffering from some kind of medical condition, the Master empathized deeply with him and expressed her worry and concern. Thus began an extraordinary effort to locate the boy and find out if he needed help from Tzu Chi.

Abhishek Kumar, a Tzu Chi volunteer living in Rajgir, was entrusted with the task of finding the boy. With little information about the boy, he searched from village to village on his motor scooter, eventually tracking him down at the foot of the hill where Saptaparni Cave is situated. (The cave is believed to be the site where the first Buddhist Council took place after the Buddha’s passing.) The boy was identified as Sandeep, then nine years old.

Sandeep’s mother was happily surprised when she learned about Tzu Chi’s intent to help her son. In June 2022, Abhishek and another volunteer, Vivek Kumar from Bodh Gaya, accompanied Sandeep to a hospital in Gaya for an examination (see photo 1). The test results were then forwarded to Dr. Chao You-chen (趙有誠), superintendent of Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital in northern Taiwan, who helped confirm that Sandeep’s extended abdomen was caused by a urological condition. Dr. Chao also suggested a direction for the boy’s treatment.

In July, the volunteers accompanied Sandeep and his parents to New Delhi, approximately 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) from Rajgir, where Sandeep received care from Dr. Sujit Chowdhary at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital (see photo 2). Due to the urgency of his condition, the doctor promptly performed surgery to drain the urine from Sandeep’s abdomen. Over seven liters of urine were drained, causing the boy’s abdomen to temporarily cave in (photo 3). This occurred because his abdominal organs had become misshapen after being compressed for so long. The misshapen organs gradually returned to their original shape with time, but unfortunately, his left kidney had lost function due to delayed treatment. Sandeep underwent another surgery in August of the same year to have that kidney removed.

The success of these two surgeries brought immense relief to Sandeep’s parents and to Sandeep himself. With the weight of his burdensome abdomen lifted, he has regained his smile. He is no longer subjected to stares and can now run and jump like other children. Best of all, he can finally experience peace of mind as he grows up.

Photo by Hsiao Yiu-hwa

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