Tuesday, August 23, 2016

25 years as an amputee: Happy Silver Ampuversary!

It's been 25 long and eventful years today since my near fatal accident due to drunk driving by a truck driver and my amputation. Being a little girl then I would never have thought about the future but if my parents were to be told that this is where their daughter would be 25 years later, I guess they'd take it. There's no better joy in the world than making your parents happy.
As a mother myself, I cannot fathom the pain a parent goes through when faced a situation of their little child having to undergo an amputation. The only positive then was that the infection didn't spread above my leg and amputating it at the hip meant I could still be alive.
Today I’d like to appreciate the wonderful life and the amazing people I have been gifted with. 

Having lived a fair share of my life in the cosy comforts of Dubai, moving to India gave me a cultural shock. The roads didn't have proper sidewalks, bathrooms weren't easy to use, monsoons were torrid cuz my prosthesis is not supposed to get wet, the place being generally not quite clean, many places were inaccessible and most of all the people.. 

There were those that were uncooperative & rude. 
Be it the government orthopaedic panel who refused to accept that my disability level was 80% and compromised to give 50% (This when the government stipulated norms said 80% for hip disartics) or the ones who refused to approve my railway concession certificate for the reason that 'Hip disarticulation is okay but you can walk independently' (As though he was punishing me for me overcoming my adversities better than I should!) or a couple of extremely rude CISF staff I have encountered at the airports who treat me like I am an anti social element only because I use a prosthesis. (I understand that as a safety concern while frisking they might require for my prosthesis to be removed and passed through the scanner but advising me to wear a saree or a skirt instead of jeans when I requested for a closed room to change or manhandling my prosthesis like it was garbage in is NOT the way someone should be treated.)

Then there were those who'd randomly come up to me and ask what's wrong with my leg. Initially I was asked to not bother telling them because they'd keep saying oh poor thing. And then ask for more details. Today if anyone comes up and asks I basically just tell them the crux. But I have realised that no matter how self confident a child is, offering sympathy and saying pitiful things like... 'What a pretty girl. It's a shame such a thing had to happen to her' can really disturb them.

Then the ones who'd just stare. Some for 10 seconds some for a whole 5 minutes watching my every movement, my every word, judging me and whoever else I'm with. As a child I'd just feel bad about it. As a teenager, I'd feel embarrassed as though something was wrong with me. Later I tried to ignore them. Today I look back and smile. They either shy away or smile back.

That said I have also come across so many wonderful people. 
- Like the guy who offered to carry my luggage to my berth at a train station and observing my scepticism showed me his ticket (on another train) and ID.
- Like the numerous Autorickshaw drivers who would offer to drop me inside IIT gate on my way back from classes outside because the traffic was unruly at that time of the day for me to risk walking on the roadside & refuse to take a penny in return.
- Like the bus conductor who stopped the bus when it didn't have a stop so that I wouldn't need to walk a longer distance at night.
- Like the lady who gave me her seat (not reserved) on the bus despite having a toddler in her arms because 'the driver was too rash & I would have to stand for too long'.
And the people who offer to help in probably the smallest way to make life easier for me.
The one who offers me a chair to sit on at concerts in the temple. The fellow passenger in a train who inquires if I'd prefer their lower berth over my middle berth in the train. The auto wala who checks whether I have gotten off comfortably before rushing away.
There still is so much goodness in the world, we don't realise it.

I have come a long way too. From leading a fun but cocooned childhood in Dubai to facing the challenge of living in lesser developed Indian Towns to living alone in a hostel in a metro. I later realised how difficult it was to live alone in a hostel as an exclusive prosthetic device user. Things that are seemingly mundane to a normal person took huge efforts on my part specifically on days when it hurt a little more. But it was one of the best things I've done in my life. 

I am very harsh on myself and I realise I mustn't be. I have a habit of not letting my infirmity getting in the way of anything else. I walk extensively for 4-5 km when I'm travelling to places that are best seen by foot. I wore my prosthesis for days without taking it off except for a shower when I was at the hospital with my mother in law & my dad. I used to continue to go to school normally even when I got boils and was in a lot of pain. I used to have blood coming out cuz of the socket of the prosthesis rubbing against my body after using it in many trying conditions. I'd never realise when I was in pain unless someone asked me. I was silly. It was unnecessary. Today I make use of whatever convenience I have. I hire a vehicle where I can. I take rest when I can. I take the wheelchair if the distance is considerable. I don't need to but if I can, why not. 

During pregnancy I had to learn to walk with crutches and to get used to moving around without my prosthesis. Using a wheelchair was cumbersome & using crutches meant both my hands were occupied. I realised how much more difficult most things I usually did turned out to be. I was thankful that I used a prosthetic leg without a support crutch and the level of freedom it gave me. And to think that 60% hip disartics end up rejecting a prosthetic leg for the sheer difficulty of using one. So after 3 months of my delivery and 10 months of not using one, I got fitted with a new socket and learnt to walk again. For 2 weeks with an elbow crutch and later without support. The day I walked independently holding my daughter in my arms must have been for me equivalent to the day my parents wept after seeing me walk with my prosthesis for the first time.

To the acquaintances who told me that I was an inspiration to them to overcome an adverse situation. To the girls who said that they love that I wear a smile at all times regardless of circumstances and that seeing that smile has given them the motivation to get through unfavourable days. To the guys who have said that if I wasn't taken already, they'd want me to be their partner. To the best friend who for years felt bad that my accident happened on her birthday of all days. To IIT & hostel life for giving me some of the best years of my life to grow as a person. To my initial years in India that changed my perceptions about life & showed me the ground realities of life struggles that people have. To my dearest & most valuable prosthetists who understand my issue and help me so well with being mobile. To the friends who effortlessly change plans to suit my requirements. To my family for seeing me through my bad days. To my siblings who are my biggest critics yet always have my back. To my daughter who has made the last 1 of these 25 years the most fulfilling. To my husband.. my best friend.. my pillar who supports my every decision & endeavour. To my parents for encouraging me to be independent and scanning the world back in 1991 to ensure I could get back on my own two feet and showering me with the world's best.

Thank you.