October 30, 2011 12:15:18 am
Dr Ketna Mehta,rendered paraplegic after an accident,started the Nina Foundation in 2000 for people with spinal cord disablilities
A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie,Dr Ketna Mehta would frequently indulge in her passion for adventure sports when she was not managing her firm,Ubique Consultancy. However,life took a nasty turn in 1995 when she met with a tragic accident while paragliding at a camp in Virar.
It was the last flight of my three-day camp and the winds were exceptionally strong. In fact,our instructor had even warned us of flights getting cancelled. Once I was in air,the winds picked up. As I failed to manoeuvre myself mid air,I ended up crashing violently onto the ground, Mehta recalls. She was rushed to the hospital and declared a paraplegic. The next few months were extremely trying for her,both mentally as well as physically. However,immense support from her family and doctors helped her bring back the pieces of her life together.
My physiotherapist made me meet other paraplegics every week,most of whom were from extremely poor families. We started interacting and discussing our problems with each other. I knew that something had to be done to enable them to live their lives in a dignified manner, Mehta says.
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She started the Nina Foundation in 2000 for people with spinal cord disablilities,in memory of her sister who motivated her to get back on her feet.
A few months after my accident,my physiotherapist had advised me to start off with walking and then slowly proceed to climbing stairs. However,with immense emotional and physical support from my sister,I managed to climb the entire flight of stairs succesfully,much to the surprise of the physiotherapist, Mehta says.
There are over three lakh people in India suffering from spinal cord injuries,which makes it the second largest such population in the world. Despite the large numbers,there is very little done to empower such people,Mehta feels.
In Mumbai,on one hand you get the most fancy food and clothes. On the other hand,wheelchairs and callipers,which are basic requirements for the disabled,are of extremely poor quality. Many institutes and campuses are not disabled-friendly, Mehta says. Her personal tragedy and her marketing background helped her to pen her doctorate thesis on Market Potential Study for a World Class Spinal Injury Rehab Centre in Mumbai
Mehta recalls the early days of her NGO when she had to sensitise people towards paraplegia patients.
There was this one eight-year-old victim of the Bhuj earthquake who had become a paraplegic after the tragedy. Her principal refused to give her admission to the school. After explaining to the principal that the childs mind had not been affected,she was finally admitted. Today,albeit wheelchair bound,she actively participates in sports. It is important to reach out to people and make them aware of others problems,only then can you expect a response, she says.
Today,Nina Foundation has over 600 members from all over India suffering from spinal cord injuries. A majority of the members are involved in some sort of occupational therapy activity. The NGO is involved in organising various seminars and workshops and also in creating films and advertisements to spread awareness about the differently abled.
Being bound to her walker does not hinder Ketnas various endeavours which include being Editor and Associate Dean of research at Wellingkar School of Management and handling the various activities of Nina Foundation including a bi-monthly newsletter called One World- Voice of Paraplegics.
My sister always reminded me that there was a bigger purpose to my personal tragedy,that I was there to reach out to others and make a difference. It is her words which have kept me going, Mehta says.
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