Sravani Ramachandran works at IBM India and lives in Banglore, India.
September 5th is observed as Spinal Cord Injury Day. While some call it a celebration, I choose to go with the word observation. For certain obvious reasons:
Spinal Cord Injury is something that changes one’s life forever. You lose control, mobility and sensation in parts of your body and more or less become dependent on others for almost everything. Things you had earlier not even paid too much heed to or had taken for granted start mattering now. Like how often does one actually sit and imagine how would my life be if I lost sensation of my legs? Or how would I be moving around in case I lost mobility? How would I manage if I lost bladder and bowel control? Seriously! Would we ever think about these things? Or do we ever pause to think about how the lives of those people might be who have actually lost these? No.
Because we are not aware that something like this can actually happen and can turn one’s life topsy turvy. Very frankly speaking, up until the time of my accident, I didn’t know about Spinal Cord Injury and how life changing it can be. I had only seen that movie of Hrithik Roshan, Guzaarish, where he suffers from SCI and becomes paralysed neck down. I had really, at that point, thought it was the cinematic liberty that got the movie to show many things. Little did I know that these things are a possibility in real life. Even worse, I would get to experience it all myself. Life comes to a standstill when something as severe as this happens. A lot of things are affected.
Normalcy in very day life seems and is a distant dream. What perhaps hits us the most is having to hear the words “you might never walk again”. This adds to the physical agony and plays with your psyche which creates havoc. There are a lot of struggles that come along with the injury and the process of adjustment can be a life-long one.
Initially, it is all too overwhelming. The plethora of concerns don’t make life easy. Some common questions that almost all of us who have undergone this have asked ourselves are:
• What does it mean to be a spinal cord injured person?
• How do we deal with the aftermath? Physically and emotionally?
• How different is life going to be?
• Can we really lead productive lives?
• Is independence now a distant dream?
• How can we cope with the lifelong adjustment process?
• How do we go about handling the identity crisis?
Gradually, we learn to cope with things.
• We start trying simple things by ourselves
• Trying small things and succeeding at them gives us immense pleasure
• We re-define what independence and achievement means to us
• We try to get over the “Why me”?! phase
• We start re-establishing ourselves in our family, with our friends, at work and in the
• We consciously start changing our habits
• We develop new interests or resume earlier ones
Eventually, we learn to
• Try to cope with the realities of life
• Live a meaningful life with the disability — a life that gives us a sense of purpose and
• Regain independence and integrate ourselves back into the community
• Try to see how we can help others who have faced a similar plight
• Work ardently on our interests as life can seem kind of isolated without the activities
• Develop ways of working around things and try to be more effective, productive and strong, physically, emotionally and financially
• Look beyond the disability and assume other aspects of living a meaningful and purposeful
But throughout the journey, there are changing needs and changing issues. Along with the physical health, mental health assumes a lot of importance. Having a spinal chord injust lawyer to help you navigate the legal side is important.We do our best to stay positive, to go about life normally, to recover from many a recurring disturbing issue and importantly to battle depression and anxiety issues.
Knowing that we have a family that cares and loves us keeps us alive. Knowing that we have friends who make life more laughable and enjoyable keeps us going. Knowing that we were given a second chance to live again and to go behind many new goals, keeps us hopeful and makes us try ardently. For me it is about demonstrating that a full, productive and rewarding life is within the reach of anyone with the strength to believe and the courage to make it happen. It is about being spirited, regardless of life’s trials. It is about embracing change and about finding meaning in life despite how meaningless it might seem at times.
Spinal cord injury may have closed one chapter in all our lives. But then again, there are many new chapters to be written!
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