NEW DELHI: There cannot be a bigger blessing than a second shot at a healthy life for children born with congenital heart disease, feels the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, whose biggest pledge on his 72nd birthday is to bring smiles on those cute little faces.
Gavaskar's 'Heart to Heart' foundation has been working with Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals for the past few years, and almost 16,000 surgeries have been performed "free of cost", with a "success rate of 99 percent".
"The Heart to Heart foundation was set up a few years back to create awareness about the issue of children born with congenital heart defects and to raise funds which help in the children getting treated without having to pay anything," Gavaskar told PTI on his birthday.
Asked what led him to form a foundation to help children with CHD, the 'Little Master' said: "There are more than 300000 children born in India with CHD and almost a third of them don't live to see their next birthday.
"The foundation is collaborating with the three Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals, one in New Raipur, Chhattisgarh, another in Palwal, Haryana and the third in Kharghar, New Mumbai where the children are treated.
These hospitals perform surgeries and cath interventions totally free of cost to the child and the parents," Gavaskar said.
The batting great informed that nearly 400 surgeries are performed every month.
"The hospitals currently do around 400 surgeries a month. Under the mother and child health care programme, we have covered around 95000 mothers and their babies so far," said Gavaskar.
A master of analogies, Gavaskar said that a "second life" was also important in his cricket career, just like it has been for these children.
"After a successful surgery the child goes on to lead a normal healthy life . It's a second life for them. This getting another life aspect resonates with me because I got a 'cricketing life' when, in my debut Test match, no less a cricketer than Sir Garfield Sobers dropped an easy catch when I was batting on 12."
"I went on to get a half-century and then kept my place in the Indian team for the next 17 years."
Asked about his birthday wish, Gavaskar said he is hoping for involvement of more and more people to do their bit in saving lives.
"My fervent wish on my birthday is for more people to help and join in saving children's lives. They can go online on Get Involved Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital and get more information. At these hospitals, there is 'only dil, no bill," he concluded.