Viman Nagar-based doctor Nidhi Agarwal sat herself for a wheel-chair race that was about to ensue on Khadki’s Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre’s (PRC) basketball court. Until then she believed she’d never be able to stomach a visit to a home for paraplegics; anticipating an air of hopelessness and moroseness. Contrary to her preconceived notions, she saw more smiling faces on Saturday, at PRC that she usually does outside among ordinary people when she attended the sports day organized by Team Miracle, a support group for paraplegic soldiers, to commemorate the PRC’s 40th anniversary.
Forty years ago in 1974 the PRC was established, as a follow up of the 1971 Indo-Pak war which yielded 60 spinal cord injury casualties, with 24 beds. This rehabilitation centre caters specifically to paraplegics with service backgrounds who were invalidated by injuries to their spines on-duty. Paraplegia is a condition caused by spinal injury which can lead to the impairment of upper or lower limbs or both.
A typical patient suffering from a condition as this suffers from lack of sensation in the affected areas resulting in mobility issues. It is therefore essential, shares PRC’s Medical Director, that the patients adhere to strict discipline, receive adequate exercise in the form of sports and be under constant medical surveillance to avoid further complication of their condition. With its current capacity of 109 beds, of which 85 are occupied, the Khadki PRC helps its residents attune themselves with life.
“They follow a strict regime,” says Mita Banerjee, founder of Team Miracle, wife of an ex-serviceman herself who has been associated with the PRC for the past five years, adding, “They wake up at 5 am, go for a walk and eat breakfast after which many go to work; some at workshops while some others run general stores.”
They’re back in the afternoon for rest and tend to their occupations again from 3 pm to 5 pm. The evenings are usually reserved for sporting activities, which is a life-line to most patients and perhaps makes for the most fun-filled part of their day. Dinner is served early and everybody hits bed at 9 pm. Their life may seem monotonous but rigid adherence to a schedule is a necessary evil.
“We therefore organized a sports day on Saturday between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm,” shares Banerjee, adding, “Believing it would cure monotony; and they really seemed to enjoy it.” The day began with the wheel-chair races, after which the scene was shifted to the indoor stadium on PRC premises which saw badminton, table tennis and throw-ball matches.
It must be established here that the Pune PRC has produced fine athletes who have competed at prestigious national and international platforms and won accolades for the country. “A badminton match between valid Team Miracle volunteers versus paraplegics was a fitting display of their athletic prowess,” shares Banerjee, adding, “The paraplegic team won effortlessly.”
Besides sports, informs an official from the Centre, many patients in the past have aced other fields. A Sepoy, a quadraplegic (all four limbs affected), was a master painter who painted using his mouth and sold many canvases. Some have gone on to establish successful businesses in the services sector while others render themselves useful on a daily basis at workshops.