A healing touch, a patient hand

BETTERING LIVES

A healing touch, a patient hand

At a time, when not many were aware of the benefits of physiotherapy, Dr Aarti Prasad came as a godsent. Even today, she continues to do so, finds out Bharathi Prabhu

The Physiotherapy department at Ramakrishna Super Speciality Hospital in Bengaluru is abuzz with activity. Men and women, young and old, are being treated for their illness.

Some have ice packs or hot packs on aching body parts; one is lying prone while a therapist gently runs an ultrasonic massager on her back; another is guided through a series of exercises and there are many, looking anxious in the waiting area.

A striking and all-pervasive presence here is that of the elegant and articulate Dr Aarti Prasad, the head of the department. She quickly examines a patient, counsels another and runs through the exercise regimen of a third, even as a fourth patient insists that she see him. “Sometimes, I wish a day had more than 24 hours in it,” Aarti chuckles.

Such demands on one’s time and expertise could drain anyone else, but not Aarti. “When you are doing something you are passionate about, you will find the time and energy,” she says.

Apart from managing the department with nine physiotherapists, Aarti also runs morning and evening programmes on wellness, trains other physiotherapists, lectures at events and continues to learn new things. She has 34 years of experience as a physiotherapist - 29 of which have been with Ramakrishna Hospital - treating a wide range of musculo skeletal, neurological and cardio-related issues.

Seeds were sown

It was her father who wanted Aarti to pursue a career in physiotherapy. A brief exposure at a rehabilitation centre while still in her teen years convinced Aarti that this was what she wanted to do with her life. And after graduating from Bombay University, marriage brought here to the IT city.

Back in those days, the city had not yet realised the full potential of this speciality. “Initial days were tough. But slowly, after seeing the work I did, doctors began to refer more and more patients to me. Now, doctors and the public have realised that physiotherapists understand body dynamics well and can offer immense help in strengthening muscles, improving balance and hastening post-traumatic or post-surgical recovery,” Aarti explains.

Pain has both, a physical and mental component to it. Aarti feels that treating an individual as a whole is essential.

“Especially women, they usually come with complaints of shoulder, back or knee pain. I work with them and convince them to take their fitness seriously. Women complain that they have no time, but they can incorporate simple exercises into their daily lives very easily, even while cooking or working on the computer.” This is what she emphasises when she is giving a talk to women’s groups, to which she is often invited.

In the programme on wellness that she runs in the evenings, she has women exercising in groups. This, she says, is known to give better results than individual exercise. She also incorporates accessories such as Therabands (specially made rubber strips, using which muscle strength can be built), stability trainers and balancing ball, all of which make exercising fun.

The older women are made to work through a combination of toning, balancing, flexibility and aerobic exercises, while for the younger women, it is strengthening of the core.

“We need to teach our daughters and grand-daughters that proper nutrition and a fitness regimen are absolutely essential. With all the changes that a woman’s body undergoes, taking care of it has to begin in the 20s itself,” stresses the doctor, who is delighted that the older women in her programme come back with feedbacks of better health.

Having seen several thousands of patients, Aarti’s clinical instincts are highly tuned, and the inspiring thing is that she continues to acquire new skills.

Feathers in her cap

In recognition of her service in the field, she has been conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Bangalore Physiotherapy Network. Awards from service clubs and some fame have also come her way, but her “aha” moment came “When a child with spasticity that I had treated 20 years ago, called me from Delhi to inform me that he had got a job,” says Aarti.

To the inevitable question about work-home balance, Aarti has this to say: “I have a wonderful and supportive husband who has encouraged me all through. My son Aditya too has very graciously shared me with my profession- even in his growing-up years!”  Aarti is also thankful to the CEO at the hospital for giving her a free hand in running the department.

In the little free time she gets, Aarti loves to do flower arrangement, sing and cook. “I think I enjoy cooking a lot since I don’t do it every day,” she laughs, “I would love to learn to sing - bhajans, perhaps.”

As a committee member of the Bangalore Physiotherapist Network, Aarti is keen on spreading awareness about her profession and ensuring quality control. She is also exploring possibilities of collaborative research with a Swedish team.

With so many activities lined up, it sure looks like the singing lessons will have to wait!

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