What inspired me most about Dr Kalam was his simplicity. Once, his nephew got a severe viral infection when he came back from Australia. It was so severe that he was in our hospital for 27 days. But Dr Kalam never interfered or inquired about the treatment or asked for any help.
Later, after his nephew got back home and I was in Hyderabad, Kalamji called me to say, “Chairman sir, wherever you are I want to meet you.” I said: “I will come to Raj Bhavan”. However, he came to my office to meet me. Again, a week later, he sent a message asking for an appointment. I was in Delhi and said I would meet him at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But he came to our hospital.
He understood very well that health care played a crucial role in a nation’s development. He always praised the Apollo team for the touching and caring system and its technical expertise. He could always boost my morale. I can still recite his words at the first international cancer conclave that was held in Chennai early last year. He spoke about how children needed to be sensitised and educated about non communicable diseases so that they could lead a youthful life devoid of debilitating conditions.
He was the man who made the stent, for angioplasty, available at an affordable price. He worked with Dr Soma Raju and his Care Hospitals for the project. Stents used to cost more than Rs1 lakh, but he made them cheaper. He also encouraged us to work with stem cells, an idea that has now created a significant impact in the medical field.
Every time he met me, he said, “Chairman, you have done more than what I have done.” I used to tell him that I was a small man before him. But his words encouraged me to work harder. I only felt encouraged to do more for the health of the nation.
Dr Reddy is chairman, Apollo Hospitals.
As told to Lakshmi Subramanian