Oh, Babies! She Wants To Hug Them All



By HIROKO SATO, Sun Staff

CHELMSFORD -- Purnima Sangal has delivered more than 8,000 babies all over the world, but her eyes still fill with tears when she hears a heartbeat in a womb for the first time.

"It's not a routine for me," said Sangal, an obstetrician and gynecologist for 26 years.

She feels a deep connection with the children she's helped bring into the world.

"I want to touch them, see them and hug them," she said. "I wanted to see them, if possible, most of them, at the same time."

On Mother's Day, Sangal's dream will come true. She will host a reunion at Lowell's Tsongas Arena of thousands of children she has delivered during the past 15 years. As the owner of A Woman's Place on Courthouse Lane, Sangal helped mothers give birth to 2,500 babies over those years, at both the Lowell General Hospital and Saints Memorial Medical Center. Invitations to the reunion have gone out to 4,000 children and parents.

The event, called "Meet the Children," will bring together children ages 5 months to 15 years old for a 21/2-hour medley of fun and educational activities starting at 9:30 a.m. The open house will include finger-printing of the children, an exhibition of children's health products, a reading program and entertainment. Participants will have a chance to take photos with Sangal for her "wall of caring," which will be made into an inspirational poster for the kids after the event.

Dr. Kenneth R. Peelle of Saints Memorial Medical Center, incoming president of Massachusetts Medical Society, will speak.

Sangal also will speak.

She wants to tell her life stories, as someone who has pursued a passion for medicine and helping people since childhood and who funded the college educations of many children in her family.

She wants to share with the children her values, the values of one who believes in the power of a mother's love and caring. She also wants her patients to get to know her private side, which includes work in the community and a passion for horseback riding.

"I just wanted to be not a doctor for one day," Sangal said. "I just wanted to give a little of advice, projection of my personality, and maybe they will learn something."

Sangal is president of the Indian Medical Association of New England, serves on various committees of Massachusetts Medical Society and is a former advisor for the Committee on AIDS of American Association of Physicians from India. A founder of the Health is Wealth Foundation in India, Sangal spent two years doing social work in her home country.

Medical problems forced her to give up on delivering babies in January 2005. But she has kept her practice and plans to remain in the field, focusing on the work as a medical lecturer and speaker.

"There's nothing like someone is in pain, whether physically or emotionally, and help them," Sangal said.

Some of her patients faced difficult pregnancies and deliveries. After months of guiding them, they felt like her family members, Sangal said.

Many of the children she delivered still visit her in the office. The joy she feels when parents come by to introduce the children gave her the idea to hold the reunion.

She believes the guidance she received from her parents as a child has been the key to her success. Sangal cared for three children, whom she considers to be her own.

And on Mother's Day, her family will join her to celebrate the big milestone.

"I really love children. I wish I could give them all hug at one point," she said.