KUALA LUMPUR: As the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur slowly died down one Wednesday night, a group of people lined up along Jalan Hang Lekiu.
The five-foot paths of Kuala Lumpur are their homes, and that night they were expecting a visit from the “street doctor”.
One of the 10 winners of the inaugural Star Golden Hearts award, Dr S. Madhusudhan, has been providing free medical check-ups for the homeless, the urban poor and the needy for over a year, first with the Kechara Soup Kitchen and now through his own weekly clinic.
He was nicknamed the teddy bear doctor by the street children who often received a teddy bear from him during his visits.
“Homeless people feel they do not deserve medical attention, but for me, they should at the very least be given basic treatment,” said Dr Madhusudhan.
Starting off as a volunteer with the Kechara Soup Kitchen, which provides free food and medical care, Dr Madhusudhan felt the need to dedicate another day for the people and decided to start the Teddy Mobile Clinic in September.
The clinic on Wednesdays started with 10 volunteers. Initially, Dr Madhusudhan was the only doctor available, but the number slowly grew and his brother Dr S. Krishna and their pharmacist sister S. Sudheshna pitched in as well.
Thanks to social media and friends, today they have some 30 volunteers and six doctors as well as several pharmacists, allowing them to set up in two other locations, Masjid Negara and Jalan Tun H.S. Lee (in front of Bangkok Bank).
They typically treat 30 to 40 patients every Wednesday.
“Sometimes all they need is a person to talk to. When you listen to them, you realise the real reason they are on the streets.
“Something happened to them that forced them into this situation,” the doctor said.
The volunteers are split into several groups, with Kechara Soup Kitchen leading the registration to ensure patients are also included in its database for future reference and aid.
The second group monitors blood pressure and sugar levels while the third is the medical station. There is also a medical dispensary.
Initially, Dr Madhusudhan bore the costs for the medicine and other necessities, but as word spread, kind donors began dropping off supplies at the locations or at his private practice, Klinik Yap and Looi, in Cheras.
His clinic also acts as a food bank for people to drop off food, clothes and other essentials, as well as a medical centre for the poor and homeless to seek immediate medical treatment.
Dr Madhusudhan began his social service in 2008 after completing his medical studies.
He began by dedicating his time to several orphanages and old folks’ homes in the Klang Valley through the Genie Foundation.
“Later, I found out about the Kechara Soup Kitchen and volunteered in their feeding programme.
“That was when I realised that they needed a doctor as well,” he said.
Several times a week, he and fellow volunteers have different programmes lined up, including visiting families in dire straits to assess their situation and provide help.
He travels as far as Seremban and sees this as a lifetime commitment.
“Making people happy makes me happy. I have been told that I do all this for fame, but if the fame helps people then so be it,” he said.
The people he has helped have nothing but praise for him.
Among them is a couple from Johor, William Seow, 30, and Alice Liz Sim Ling, 32, who have been living on the streets for 15 years.
Speaking about Dr Madhusudhan with tears in his eyes, Seow said it was hard to imagine that someone was there to care for him.
“Why should a doktor besar like him come out and help us? But he does and not just on Wednesdays.
“You can see him driving past our street just to wave hello and check up on us,” said the father of two.
Another fan is Atuni Selamat, 50, who rushed to give Dr Madhusudhan a bear hug when he spotted him at the mobile clinic one Wednesday.
Calling him a joker, Atuni said he was proud to call Dr Madhusudhan a friend.
“He is extremely friendly and, most importantly, fair.
“He cares about everyone and is always on the ground treating people,” he said.
Kechara Soup Kitchen project director Justin Cheah, 40, said he has known Dr Madhusudhan for almost two years.
“He is very easy-going and I do not remember hearing the word ‘No’ from him.
“We can always count on him, no matter what time or day,” Cheah said.
When Shalini Yeap, a fellow volunteer, was asked to describe what she liked best about the teddy bear doctor, she simply said: “What’s not to like about him?”