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Longtime W.Va. obstetrician retires from delivery business

Dr. Maheswaren, known to many as Dr. Mahe, estimates that he's delivered 4,600 babies in Jefferson County

Dr. Maheswaren, known to many as Dr. Mahe, estimates that he's delivered 4,600 babies in Jefferson County

July 31, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. - If you were born between 1976 and 1992 in Jefferson County, chances are very good it was Vettivelu Maheswaran who brought you into the world.

Between those times, Maheswaran - who is known as Dr. Mahe - was the only obstetrician and gynecologist in Jefferson County.

To Mahe, obstetrics was not only a career, it was a way of life. Because he was the only obstetrician in the county, he rarely had time for anything else.

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On July 1, the one-man delivery service for Jefferson County decided it was time to retire.

To celebrate Mahe's 26 years of service to the county, a special celebration will be held in Jefferson Memorial Park Aug. 10. Children delivered by Mahe and their parents are invited to "A Day in the Park with Dr. Mahe" between 1 and 4 p.m. to celebrate his career.

Mahe had regular office hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. Then it would be a quick ride home to spend a few hours away from work. Mahe said he would always be in bed by 9 p.m. because he knew chances were good he would be called out of bed in the middle of the night to deliver a baby.

Mahe would rush to the hospital, spend one or two hours delivering a baby, then return home to sleep.

"Within five minutes, I was back into deep sleep," Mahe said.

But in recent years, that became tougher to do, the 67-year-old doctor said. Mahe began scaling back his obstetrics practice about five years ago and began teaching students in the field.

Dr. David A. Baltierra, who joined Mahe last September at his practice on Fifth Avenue in Ranson, will be handling obstetrics, said Mahe, who will continue with his gynecology practice. The only other board-certified obstetrician practicing in Jefferson County is T.A. Nathan, who set up practice here in 1992, Mahe said.

Mahe estimates he delivered 4,600 babies during his tenure in the county and admitted 12,000 women to Jefferson Memorial Hospital for procedures such as Caesarean sections.

Almost every night, Mahe said he would be awakened to deliver a baby.

"In a small community like this, you had to work hard. You couldn't spend much time with your family or have long vacations," Mahe said.

Mahe said there are several reasons why more obstetricians did not practice in the county. One reason is obstetricians knew how hard they could be worked in a rural county like Jefferson, Mahe said. And although high medical malpractice insurance rates have been a hot issue recently in the state, it was an issue earlier during Mahe's career, too.

Mahe said malpractice insurance rates did not bother him because he made a good income from his busy career.

"I like the area and I like the people," Mahe said.

Mahe's office is filled with photographs of the babies he delivered and pictures of their mothers.

"I have thousands of them," he said.

His history of care is so extensive that he has served three generations of families.

The biggest baby he ever delivered was 14 pounds, which was achieved through normal delivery. The smallest was 1 pound, 2 ounces.

"It's interesting, she's just finishing college at Shepherd College," Mahe said of the once-tiny baby.

Mahe delivered triplets four times in his career, but nothing larger. Twins were common, he said.

Mahe was born in Sri Lanka in 1935 and studied medicine in India. He did his residency training in the United Kingdom and the U.S.

He decided to come to Jefferson County in April 1976 after two of his friends came here to practice.

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