Thank You, Good ol’ Doc!

Nepali women’s team skipper Jamuna Gurung has been relieved of a pain in her left knee. The pain that she had been enduring for past eight months, as she picked up an injury while playing for Nepali team against Sikkim, last November. She had to leave field within ten minutes of play.

As the football fans celebrate her successful surgery and pray that she will be back in the sport that she’s been playing since 1999 (for the national team), they should also take some time to thank the person who made it possible. The person: A Good ol’ Doctor: Doctor Chakra Raj Pandey.

Sports pages of a newspaper are filled with the exploits of sportstars and their feats. And why not, if it wasn’t for their performance, many a country would not see their flag fluttering in cities of another nation. That’s why Jamuna’s surgery should be a reason for elation. Apart from the sports administrators – who often hail from political parties (in this part of the world) and don’t necessarily have sport background – the mention of non-sportspeople in sports pages is rare. Mention of a doctor is even rarer. This is exactly why performance of Dr Pandey needs to be celebrated.

Dr Chakra Raj Pandey: The man on a mission, to help.
Dr Chakra Raj Pandey: The man on a mission, to help.

For, if it was not for his scalpel and endoscopic instruments, we would have had to say goodbye to Jamuna Gurung’s football. Also because, for last eight months, ANFA – football governing body in the country – did not show much concern about her injury. Eight months is a significant time in a player’s career, as Jamuna missed the first ever national women’s league, watching it from sidelines. Yet there was no concern on the part of administrators, for a player that has been felicitated by a government medal – Janasewashree – and a motorcycle plus 100 thousand rupees at Rupak Memorial Award, only this year.

In 1988, in a football match between Asia and Africa, in a tourney among medical schools – in Turkey – a player hurt his knee. His knee was operated, through open surgical method. The surgery was successful, but the injury meant that he could no longer play football. The player was Chakra Raj Pandey, in his 3rd or 4th year of medical study. He remembers the incident vividly, perhaps that’s the reason he has a soft corner for players. Perhaps that’s the reason he announced that he would conduct at least two such surgeries for players, all for free, every year. Perhaps that’s the reason why GoalNepal – Nepal’s premier football portal – contacted him after learning of Jamuna’s condition. Perhaps that’s why we cannot thank him enough.

For him, it could be just another surgery, in the process of his ‘Service to God’ – as he terms his free treatment of orthopedic patients. But for scores of followers who believe in Jogo Bonito – or The Beautiful Game – it was nothing short of a sensation. It was a person doing the job of entire football association, to rid Nepal’s premier women’s player of a career threatening injury. We should be mindful here that Jamuna is 28 year old, not an age where players think of hanging up their boots. The doctor says, she could be playing the game again in eight months, if her recovery training goes well. Moreover, she has already scored 25 goals for Nepal. Among the menfolk, the top scorers for the country are: Hari Khadka and Nirajan Rayamajhi – both with 13 goals apiece.

Jamuna Gurung in Hospital. Image courtesy: GoalNepal.com
Jamuna Gurung in Hospital. Image courtesy: GoalNepal.com

Ask Doctor Pandey what made him do this, and he would tell you, “I feel this is my duty, a national responsibility.” It sounds as if the media-shy doctor – who stands almost as tall as Jamuna Gurung – does not know what he has done, or is just being modest about it. The surgery performed on Jamuna, to reconstruct Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is a world class treatment and would have cost a fortune, if Pandey didn’t waive the entire fee. Rather, the surgery would not have been done at all – knowing the apathy shown by ANFA – if it wasn’t for the waiver.

Talk to him and you learn that the doctor – who has faced hardship in his life too, coming from a modest family – knows what Nepali sports people go through. This sounds almost like an old school product, believing in charity for fellow citizens, while his compatriots are signing deals with several hospitals at once, to gather more money.

And for this old school graciousness and help for the players, one cannot but stop from saying: Thank you, Good ol’ Doc!

PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 22nd June, 2013

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