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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Pushing the Limits

You should have a sunshine attitude,” is her mantra. That’s why,when you meet Prof Ketna Mehta for the first time,if she’s not taking the support of her walker,you would not know she’s a paraplegic.

Written by Tanita Abraham |
May 11, 2009 11:16:22 pm

That’s what this professor gets other paraplegics to do,through her Nina Foundation

You should have a sunshine attitude,” is her mantra. That’s why,when you meet Prof Ketna Mehta for the first time,if she’s not taking the support of her walker,you would not know she’s a paraplegic. Mehta is the founder of Nina Foundation,an organisation that helps in the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injury and is dedicated to Dr Nina Doshi,Mehta’s sister. What drove Mehta and her brother Dhaval to form it was the lack of any support group or rehabilitation centers for people with spinal cord injury.

The organization,all set to organise the first Spinal Injury Awareness Day in India on June 25 this year,has a bi-monthly newsletter called One World – Voice of Paraplegics,which gives comprehensive information and solutions related to the distinct physical,medical,psychological,social,recreational and vocational aspects of the challenges faced by those with spinal cord injuries. India has close to three lakh people with spinal cord injury.

A paraplegic (a person who has lost sensation from the waist down) or a quadriplegic (a person who has lost sensation from the neck down) needs training,support and guidance until he/she is made independent. “Usually,maximum recovery can be made in the first two years after the injury. At this time,the immediate family and friends are the lifeline for the person,” says Mehta,who became a paraplegic 14 years ago owing to a paragliding accident. “Acceptance is the first step to recovery. The mind is the most important organ we have and through the power of our mind we can make our other organs work,” she says,now an associate dean with a leading management institute.

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Arvind Prabhu,a businessman,endorses the ‘mind over matter’ idea. “The person should have knowledge about his condition and also about the other alternatives he has. Also education and studies is important because it gives you something to do and look forward to,” says Prabhu,who has been a quadriplegic for 22 years and now associated with the Nina Foundation. “I am productive and more importantly,I am not dependent on anybody financially.”

Mehta and others at her home for paraplegics explain that life after a spinal cord injury is all about relearning – from day-to-day activities to bowel control and makings sure their body hasn’t sustained any injuries or bruises.

The other issue that brings them together at the Nina Foundation is the disappointment with public amenities despite India having the second largest population of disabled people. “The 1995 Disabilities Act has clearly states that all public places and transport facilities should be accessible to people with disabilities,but we don’t see the implementation of the Act anywhere,” says Sunita Sancheti,an accountant and a paraplegic since she was 16.

Mehta also has to her credit a study on the number of disabled people in the country and other useful information that will help bring into perspective how large their issue really is. “Internationally,all statistics are well documented but it is the first time in India that such a step has been taken. I am really proud of this study,” beams Mehta.

Nina Foundation conducts wellness seminars and other workshops that help people with spinal cord injury to get back to living life. It has also been instrumental in organising a number of activities to encourage,motivate and entertain the disabled and to educate people about the differently able. Their activities include a National Paraplegics Wheelchair Games and a wheelchair marathon. “I used to get very angry about things but I have toned down with age,I guess. Also being very vocal or angry does not help. We need to communicate our needs and problems the right and way and make people understand,” she says.

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