Meet Dr. Shanmugam Madhusudhan, a 33-year-old, who is otherwise fondly known among his friends as the teddy bear doctor
Every Saturday night, the 33-year-old doctor, who works with volunteers from Kechara Soup Kitchen, heads out on the streets of Kuala Lumpur to provide medical care to the homeless and others who do not have enough money for hospital treatments
While costs for medication and treatment, including hospital admissions, are covered by Kechara Soup Kitchen, private donations from different places fund the ambulance and medical equipment. According to Susan Tam of Coconuts KL, Mahamas Ambulance Service from Jalan Pahang Kecil had donated for 11 July.
The Klang-born doctor believes that being out there on the streets and helping people is an experience that was "anytime better than going clubbing".
He is always in a jovial mood, regardless of the conditions he and the volunteers work in. Last Saturday, 11 July, while they were parked next to a heap of rubbish and amidst the usual odours that come from bins and drains, Dr Madhusudhan and his colleagues carried on with their work, using stethoscopes and blood pressure gauges to do routine checks on the patients, writes Susan Tam.
According to the doctor, working on the streets is meaningful and it doesn't matter if it stretches late into the night. "If there are emergency cases, we will usually finish our rounds by 2am or 3am."
Treating the destitute on a Saturday night complements the work he does at his clinic in Cheras. At his private practice, this Klang-born doctor offers free medication and treatment to the homeless, poor and senior citizens, supported by Kechara volunteers who bring over patients to his care.
His charity work began as a co-founder of the Genie foundation, granting wishes to children from orphanages. Then he moved on to join Kechara's volunteer movement, after finding out one of his friends help out regularly at the soup kitchen.
“At first, I thought the soup kitchen was a cooking class. Who would attend a cooking class on a Saturday night?” he laughs. When he learnt about the real work involved, he fell in love with it and stuck to it for a year now.
His good work, however, is not immune to criticism from others
“Some people accuse me of doing this work for fame, I laugh at such remarks. I think even if it is fame that I do it for, as long as the people (here) get helped, why not?”
Dr Madhusudhan doesn't let these criticisms or accusations stop his work. He even jokes about his bachelorhood, expressing wishes that his future wife would either be a volunteer or support his commitment to the long and thankless hours of volunteerism.
Dr. Madhusudhan, who is in this for the long-term, hoping to reach out to as many people as he is able to, conducting a basic check up for one of the patients in Chow Kit, which is one of the many stops that the doctor and his team goes to on Saturday nights
Others include Sentul, Dang Wangi, Keramat and the area around Bangkok Bank. “Chow Kit area has the most patients, and sometimes we have to take them to the hospital if there is an emergency.
“Some of them may have been robbed and chopped, or have difficulties in breathing, so we have to admit them.” Typically, 80 to 90 patients meet at Chow Kit to receive medical treatment as well as food distributed by the soup kitchen.
But it's tough at times, he admits, these patients are reluctant to be warded due to existing convictions or criminal records, while others have no identification cards or have had their documents stolen from them.
So instead, they wait for the team's weekend visits as a way to get treated. “So instead of going to hospital, they wait for us. One of the worst cases I've seen is when a patient came to see us, with a gangrenous leg so rotten that it urgently needed hospital treatment, but the client refused to go.” He explains that patient had believed in black magic as a form of treatment instead of going to a hospital.
Dr. Madhusudhan and his team are always cheerful and kind while taking the time to listen to their patients and offer advice. And the patients are pleased with the volunteer medical team's effort.