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Times of India
23 November 2008
by Laxmi Birajdar
Pune, India

Ramakant Kulkarni (right) and Vilas Vaidya...Ramakant Kulkarni (right) and Vilas Vaidya with a patient at the hospital
In this weekly series, TOI honours the city’s unsung heroes who are doing their bit away from the public glare
A patient in critical condition rushed to the Sanjeevan Hospital, off Karve road, requires immediate help. What eases the tension when the ambulance reaches the hospital is a small desk just at the entrance. Senior citizens manning it not only help the patient get admitted, but also arrange for immediate blood and other medical requirements.

They are members of Rugnamitra, a voluntary help desk started by social worker, Ramakant Kulkarni on December 15, 2003. Its eight–odd members have been staying put during peak hours at the hospital, lending support to patients and visitors.

From providing instant information to needy patients, coordinating with the hospital and the blood banks for blood and other medical facilities, they do it all, free of cost, from 8 am to 1.30 pm and from 4 pm to 6 pm, six days a week.

Kulkarni, a former helper at the Hindustan Antibiotics, has been lending a helping hand at Niwara old age home. Since 1987, Kulkarni has been admitting patients to Sanjeevan. “I came to know all the people in the hospital and I informed the authorities of the need to have a help desk, for supplying instant information to the needy,” says 77–year–old Kulkarni on the genesis of Rugnamitra.

A friend to a ‘Rugna’ or patient, is a ‘Rugnamitra,’ he says with a bright smile. And he’s been at his charitable best right since his youth.

When Kulkarni was 15–yearsold, he had admitted his neighbour, an ailing grandmother, to a hospital during the last stages of her illness. She didn’t survive and Kulkarni had to arrange the money for her funeral since her family members were not available. “Money was short and I had to literally beg for the funeral expenses. That was my first experience with death. Since then, I’ve felt the need to help anyone suffering from illness,” says Kulkarni.

This incident led Kulkarni to widen his philanthropic horizon. Until a few years ago, he was busy conducting several blood donation camps. “A bevy of blood donors would be ready to donate blood when the need arose. And to this day, I have a list of donors, especially of rare blood groups,” says Kulkarni.

He is also one of the co–founders of Hridaymitra, a voluntary organisation to help those suffering from heart ailments. And on the insistence of his well–wishers, who he has befriended over the year, Kulkarni even helped found an old age home in Belgaum.

For the last four decades, he has also been coordinating for patients between doctors and leading hospitals in the city. Not just that, he is a registered body donor at the BJ Medical College. Kulkarni even donated Rs 18 lakh to the Sanjeevan Hospital, recently.

But manning the Rugnamitra counter is currently his prime concern. Along with fellow volunteer, Vilas Vaidya, Kulkarni knows how to provide immediate help. “Go out of your way to help those in need, but never expect anything in return. Only selfless dedication works here,” says 64–year–old Vaidya.

Five years of dedicated service has led to an enthusiastic response among the patients and medical fraternity. “That’s why we need more ward boys and volunteers who can be of service to the patients,” says Vaidya.

For more information, contact Rugnamitra on +91 20 66093200/201.

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