He is 80, battling throat cancer and can barely talk, is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident, has undergone a triple bypass surgeryand has a heart that functions only up to 18% of its capacity. Where would you expect such a man to be? Confined to a hospital bed, of course.Dr Sharad Kumar Dixit is confined to hospital beds indeed, but only to fix people’s defective faces and body — something that the plastic surgeon has been doing free of cost for poor patients for the past 42 years. Advancing age and ailments have not been able to slow him down. With precise moves and extremely neat sutures, it takes him less than 30 minutes to perform a cleft lip surgery on a one-month old child. Speed and efficiency are his two mantras and he performs 100-150 surgeries a day.
“In 30 minutes, he corrected my son’s cleft lip and did not charge anything for it,” said a grateful Banitha Venkatagiri, mother of Surya, the one-month old child. The baby is one of the numerous patients to benefit from the skills of Dr Dixit, who is in Chennai for three days until January 20 to perform free surgeries for the underprivileged at the DMM Hospital in Sowcarpet. This is the first time he is performing such surgeries in the city.A Padma Shri awardee, Dr Dixit lives in New York for six months and spend rest of the time in India, from September to March, travelling across ten states solely to perform surgeries for cleft lips, squint eyes, facial scars, ptosis and birthmark removal. Such operations usually cost Rs 25,000 but he does them for free, clocking 2,66,000 surgeries in India in the past 42 years.
Dr Dixit met with an accident in 1978 which rendered his right side paralysed, and subsequently underwent a triple bypass surgery after suffering a severe heart attack. But he shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. “He prefers small children and young men and women of marriageable age for surgeries as he does not want them to live with the ignominy of a disfigured face,” said Sashi Munoth, Dr Dixit’s coordinator and member of the Bharatiya Jain Sangathan, which funds the surgeries. Each year, he travels through Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan to perform the surgeries. “My troubles are nothing when compared to the problems of children who come in for surgeries and the stigma they face in life because of their disfigurement. My sole aim in life is to give them a better life,” said Dr Dixit.