Posted by: qmaxim | June 29, 2009

Power of positive thinking

This is a tale about what positve frame of mind can do. Read on..
Appeared in TOI.

Mishap broke his spine, but not his spirit

MUMBAI: On a cold evening on December 2, 1958, a balcony collapsed on Balasaheb Dharap, then a 29-year-old government employee. The accident
severely injured his spinal cord and confined him to a wheelchair but it didn’t stop him from climbing the career ladder, wheeling around Leh or enjoying the thundering Niagara Falls.

It wasn’t easy, admits the 80-year-old Shivaji Park resident about his 50-year tryst with the wheelchair. “I have complications associated with spinal cord injuries,” he says, “I can’t walk more than a few steps with crutches and that too with support. I don’t have control on my bowel or bladder movements and am prone to bed sores.” His wife, Vasumati, recalls how fellow commuters would argue about his folded wheelchair being carried into the second-class compartments. “They would want it in the luggage compartment,” says the couple.

Dharap retired as joint director of industries in the state government over 20 years ago. He ensured equality education for his three children; two of whom were born after his accident-a rare occurrence for paraplegic patients. And, he hasn’t spent a single evening in despair or pity-“after the accident, my wife and I decided that we wanted to be happy in the company of people,” he says.

Vasumati has penned a book on Dharap’s experiences, titled Can’t Walk? So What. On Thursday, Nina Foundation, an NGO, is observing its first Spinal Injury Awareness Day by felicitating differently-abled heroes like Dharap.

Ketna Mehta, the founder of Nina Foundation who is a paraplegic after a paragliding accident, says spinal cord injury patients are ignored. “On a conservative estimate, India has three lakh such patients. Studies estimate that 20,000 fresh cases are added every year, yet there is little in terms of rehabilitation for us,” says Mehta, who has done a doctoral research on this subject.

On Thursday, the NGO will encourage people to wear a blue ribbon to spread the message that it is possible for patients to carry on with pride. “There are many people who, despite being paraplegic (with loss of strength in two limbs) or quadriplegic (loss in all four limbs), have active careers and interests. The idea is to take stock of the talents and skills you possess,” says Mehta.

Dharap couldn’t agree more. Innovation, he says, is the key. “Travelling to work was difficult and expensive in a taxi every day. So I got a customised tempo and drove it to work every day,” he says. Before going for movies, he would not take liquids to avoid going to the toilet. “I learnt that shifting your weight every half an hour in the wheelchair helps fight bedsores,” he says.

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