UMA PREMAN, SANTHI MEDICAL INFORMATION CENTRE
Uma Preman, Founder and Director of Santhi Medical Information Centre, is only 46 years old but has accomplished what most of us probably will not in our entire life time.
Uma remembers a tough childhood, daughter of a cotton mill worker, she recalls that in spite of their own tough times, her father spent all his free time selflessly helping the sick and the aged members of the neighbouring communities. Apart from her father, a young Uma was greatly influenced by Mother Teresa, who she had a privilege of working with in Kolkata. After spending a few years in social service, Uma returned home, discontinued her studies and got married to an aged and ailing man at the age of 19. She was his fourth wife. The trials did not end there, Uma’s husband became seriously ill and in spite of trips to several hospitals, her husband’s condition was wrongly diagnosed and he finally lost the battle to multidrug resistant tuberculosis.
Uma, who was now only 27 years old, had become a widow. It was during the process of caring for her husband and dealing with the dire consequences of the misdiagnosis that Uma realized how little medical information was available to the common man. She made up her mind to do something about it and founded Santhi Medical Information Centre. The centre is a charitable institution in Guruvayur, Trichur district, Kerala. This was back in 1997 and since then, it has functioned successfully as a resource centre, for those who seek medical information, treatment and financial assistance for crippling or life-threatening ailments.
Over the years, Uma has dedicated her life to helping the needy. I was really moved when she told me that in 1998, Uma donated her own kidney to a young man who was in desperate need of one. Via her charitable trust, Uma started a subsidized dialysis programme which provides dialysis to poor patients for very low costs. Uma shares that the toughest challenge she faced is when a renowned institution banned her dialysis services as it ruined their business, but Uma was not one to be bullied and she managed to overcome the situation by inviting a well-known Nephrologist from Chennai to help her out and gain credibility.
Speaking to me from Attappadi, a tribal settlement in Palakkad, Kerala, her home for the last three years, Uma talked about all that she is doing for the tribal people there, from providing free sanitary napkins to the women, to improving the medical facilities, building a school for the children and providing them with the gift of education.
As we chatted, oblivious to the passage of time, Uma recalled her journey with a deep sense of satisfaction. She is untouched by the recognition she has received as her sole focus has always been to provide hope to the poor. I complimented Uma on not letting the lack of education qualifications or knowledge in the medical field deter her efforts and she confidently says “My educational qualification stopped at Pre University, the critical life situations stagnated my studies. When I started Santhi all our activities were connected to the medical profession. So I decided to educate myself and acquired knowledge on diseases, ailments, treatments and best practices. I searched through libraries, spoke to medical professionals, until I was able to understand the medical terminologies and treatments.” She pauses for a bit and then goes on to add with complete confidence “I can now even give an entire speech on a medical topic if required.”
Learn more: Santhi Medical Information Centre