By Surhuda Kulkarni, Rotary Club of Pune Baner, India

Club members take part in a walk to raise awareness for epilepsy.

I remember the day clearly. It was 1 July 2021. The world was unshackling itself from the clutches of the pandemic. Everything was slowly starting to move back to in-person. My club arranged a meeting between the doctors of the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and its epilepsy patients. More than 40 anxious parents of epilepsy patients attended the screening and free consultation camp.

It was a remarkable day for many reasons. The biggest reason was that the camp was the beginning of our project to provide free surgeries for epilepsy patients. We kick-started the project with the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital.

A printed announcement for the walkathon, held two days before Purple Day.

There are 50 million people living with epilepsy worldwide. Until recently, the condition was thought to be untreatable. But with advances in medicine, a surgical procedure has been developed that can reverse the symptoms of epilepsy in some patients. Our project allows needy or underprivileged patients who are a good match for the procedure receive free surgeries, at a cost of about Rs. 6 lakhs (about US$7,185), paid for through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds and other Rotary donations. The surgeries are done by Nilesh Kurwale, the hospital’s head of epilepsy surgeries, who has carried out more than 800 of the procedures.

Our club helped fund 15 surgeries in Rotary year 2023-24. The results were remarkable. Each of the patients recovered completely.

To create awareness about this program, we held a unique and innovative event on 24 March: a free walkathon involving our entire community. We called it “Purplethon” because we held it two days before Purple Day, 26 March, which spreads awareness of epilepsy worldwide.

Working with the Indian Institute of Education & Business Management (IIEBM) and IndusChamps School, we organized a 5-kilometer (3-mile) walk at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. On the morning of the event, nearly 450 people gathered at the stadium with great enthusiasm. Many youth participated. We provided water, refreshments, and first aid. Doctors were on hand at various points along the walk. Afterward, District 3131 Assistant Governor Smeeta Shitole, a fitness consultant and certified Zumba trainer, conducted a Zumba demonstration.

It was a great day for our club and for epilepsy awareness.