Where there is a wheel… Moving ahead after spinal cord injury ruchi’s pickles ad


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Success & ABILITY

India’s Cross-disability Magazine

April - June 2012

Rs. 30

Where there is a wheel…
Moving ahead after spinal cord injury


Editor: Jayshree Raveendran

Deputy Editor: Janaki Pillai

Associate Editors: Seena Raveendran, Eleanor Davis

Senior Designer: RG Kishore Kumar

Cover Illustration: K.K.Rath

Illustration:Pradeep Soni



Gayatri Kiran Ph: 09844525045
Ali Khwaja Ph: 080 233302000

Sai Prasad Viswanathan Ph: 0810685503

New Delhi:
Abhilasha Ojha Ph: 9810557946

Saaz Aggarwal Ph: 9823144189

Dr. Sruti Mohapatra Ph: 0674 2313311

Anil Mudgal Ph: 0755 2589168

Manbir Sambyal Ph: 233914

Javed Ahmad Tak Ph: 01936 211363

Malathi Rajagopal
10247, Fairway Drive, Ellicot City, MD 21042

Anindya Bhattacharyya

Helen Keller National Center, Sands Point, NY 11050


PUBLISHERS: Ability Foundation

EDITORIAL OFFICE: New no. 4, Old no. 23,

3rd Cross Street, Radhakrishnan Nagar,
Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai 600 041, India.
Tel/Fax: 91 44 2452 0016 / 2440 1303
e-mail: magazine@abilityfoundation.org
Website: www.abilityfoundation.org

Published by Jayshree Raveendran on behalf of

Ability Foundation, 27 Fourth Main Road,
Gandhi Nagar, Chennai 600 020.
Ph: 91 44 2452 0016

Printed at Rathna Offset Printers,

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Tel: 91 44 2813 2790 / 2813 1232


Rights and Permissions: No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of Ability Foundation. Ability Foundation reserves the right to make any changes or corrections without changing the meaning, to submitted articles, as it sees fit and in order to uphold the standard of the magazine. The views expressed are, however, solely those of the authors.


7 Stanzas Blaaze's call for a better world.

9 Milestones Rahul Cherian gives us an insight on the recent happenings in the Civil Aviation Ministry.

11 Spotlight Changing stereotypes – the glittering CKA Awards Night.

Cover Feature

18 The First Step Dr. Ketna Mehta defines the process of spinal cord injuries.

21 Awareness Moving ahead after spinal cord injury – an overview.

25 Therapy Centres Focus on the three premier rehabilitation centres.

35 Mind Matters :On overcoming the trauma of spinal cord injury.

38 Centre Spread A glimpse of ramps from across the world

40 Body Basics Making your body work for you.

47 Contacts Some SOS spinal injury centres.

49 Standing Ovation Meet S. Ramakrishnan, the quintessential humanitarian.

51 Life's Like That Nitin Goyan on making the best of what life offers.

55 On The Move Hand operated cars for wheelchair users.

57 Relationship When we follow our heart and soul, a wheelchair becomes insignificant.

59 Life & Times Sruti Mohapatra, the beacon of light in the disability sector opens up to us on life in a wheelchair.

63 Following A Dream Find your occasion, the 'heart' way: Sanam Rabadi Karunakar writes.

66 Outdoors: To live, to love, to laugh, to move the 'Salil way.'

70 Flipside To buy or not to buy: that is the question





Putting this issue together has been an eye opener in more ways than one. Seeing my friends with spinal cord injuries, who go zip, zap, zoom on their wheelchairs... it's hard to fathom, the degree of pain or the extensive and excruciating time taken for rehab that each one of them has had to undergo. Yet, each one of them, no matter what their choice of careers, has shown the world at large, a genuine testimony of courage and a widespread declaration of the beauty of life.

This besides, the sense of cross country camaraderie, and the strengthening of friendship that the compiling of this issue brought in its wake, has been especially significant. This issue would not have been possible without Ketna Mehta. As the Founder Trustee of Nina Foundation, and Editor & Associate Dean, Research, We School of Management, there must have been abundant demands on her time. Even so, she has been marvellously responsive and enthusiastic from day one. My sincere thanks too, to Vaidyanathan, Salil Chaturvedi and Scott Rains for shelling out precious time to lend a hand. Above and beyond, Ketna's statement that the making of this issue is “history being made” as no one has ever tackled such a comprehensive and cohesive compilation of articles on Spinal Cord Injury before, makes this issue truly a collector's item . This, for me – is not merely the icing on the cake, but extra cream atop the icing as well.

As Salil beautifully put it, the wheelchair is “a set of wheels attached to a chair, not just a chair attached with wheels”... and therefore in the true fashion of wheels, they must roll. There's a whole philosophy of life packed in those words... towards a life meant to live, love and laugh!

We also present you with an observer's perspective of our CavinKare Ability Awards – that very eloquently reflects – on the extent to which we have succeeded in changing the perceptions of other people about people with disabilities.

More... when you scan through the rest of the issue, it becomes increasingly clear that people with disabilities are today, ever more, coming into their own – a brave new breed – with heads held high – justifiably demanding rights and privileges. A case in point is the widespread protest, questioning India's civil aviation department for its irregularities, insisting on customer satisfaction on travel services and accessible options. There's been quantum shift from segregation to inclusion which has paved the way, towards a better level of social and economic participation.

Of course, we all know, there are numerous things that are still so uncertain, as also huge struggles ahead, but suffice to say that this generation of people with disabilities is on the threshold of a very exciting voyage towards inclusive and accessible opportunities in all spheres of life – which, unlike in the previous generation – seem much more achievable and obtainable today than ever before. So, let's see what it will take, to get us to the next step!

What do you think?

Jayshree Raveendran



Jayshree is an excellent insightful friend and very, very convincing too! When she decided to do a complete feature on spinal injury and invited me to be the Guest Editor I readily accepted – work load notwithstanding. How could I miss being part of creating history in print journalism with the first ever issue focused on spinal cord injury, and that too with a twist! A positive, optimistic, motivating saga of spinal injury!

Why should our readers read and be interested in spinal injury? There are three strong reasons:

Spinal injury leading to a permanent disability, paraplegia and quadriplegia, can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. We have known people getting spinal injury while eating a sandwich at a stall, under the tree and the branch falling on him. Or standing at the bus stop and a vehicle crashing into her or a simple fall from a height or stairs inside the house, while riding, drinking, paragliding or, simply slipping... THUD... the vertebrae in the spinal cord snaps the nerves and from the spot of injury the person is paralysed. It transforms a person's life suddenly, drastically. Thus we all must be aware about the various aspects of spinal injury.

We generally see a person on a wheelchair, walker, calipers or crutches. But there is more to spinal injury than just this visual image. It is an extremely difficult condition to accept, overcome and manage because it affects the bladder, bowel, fertility, respiration, intestinal muscles, digestion, skin, bones, muscle tone, sensation and mobility and muscle power. If this has happened to someone we know, each of us has a role to empower them to get on with life.

Holistic Rehabilitation is the only key to survival and continuity for a good quality of life. In the USA, for a quarter of a million population with people with spinal injury, there are 93 Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) model rehab centres teaching each and every aspect of the “New Life”. Inter alia activities of daily living like transferring, breathing, eating, working, kitchen training, car simulation for driving, crossing the road on wheelchair, and swimming – in short everything to lead a near-normal life, falls under the purview of Rehab.

In India (1.5 million population, with an increase of 20,000 each year, 2.28 per hour people with spinal injury), there are only two comprehensive world class rehab centres covering all the six levels of rehabilitation, namely: Physical, Psychological, Vocational, Social, Recreational and Spiritual. Believe it or not, in our financial capital, Mumbai (300 p.a. population with spinal injury), which boasts of two rich stock exchanges, there is no comprehensive world class spinal injury rehab centre. Road accidents, falls and adventure sports are changing the profile of the new Indian with spinal injury – they are young, educated and with higher purchasing power. There is a rich resource of wealth creators, tax payers and the nation’s builders amongst this population.

So what can you do? We hope this informative and motivating feature on spinal injury will excite you to get interested, involved and inspired as we believe each of us has the power and potential to nurture and encourage a friend with spinal injury.

Let's reach out today!

Dr.Ketna L.Mehta

Email: Ketnam@gmail.com




BlaaZe is a renowned rap artist and a playback singer. He was one of the lead singers / lyricists in the Oscar winning film, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and is a frequent voice in A.R.Rahman's sound tracks. With over 20 years of experience in the music industry, BlaaZe has rapped with many world renowned singers. He recently brought out India's first Hip-Hop 'protest' album, ‘Time for Gandhi.’ BlaaZe is known to write lyrics that have a powerful message underlying that foot-tapping rap, which earned him MTV's Youth Icon Award, recently.

(to care for the future)

  • BlaaZe’

one cry
is all it takes to make a tear drop
one cry
is all it takes to make the heart stop
one cry
to send the angels down down
one cry
to make the world stop spinning round
one cry
to share with the homeless
one cry
to give hope to the hopeless
one cry
so tomorrow in peace we live
one cry
to learn to give and to forgive


one cry
for the children of the world
one cry
for every boy and girl
one cry
for the scars on their feet
one cry
why they're working the streets
one cry
for the dying trees
one cry
for environment please
one cry
for the vanishing tigers
one cry
i pray the rhyme to guide us
one cry
to value life in my society
one cry
to see the poverty that bothers me
one cry
to make peace over the border
one cry
to stop life getting harder
one cry
to stop evolution
one cry
to reveal the illusion
one cry
to keep your head up high
one cry
to stand up with pride

one cry

for a fairytale ending
one cry
to go back to the beginning
one cry
for mandela's twenty-seven years
one cry
for the sins of my peers
one cry
to turn the grey skies blue
one cry
to bring the truth to you
one cry
to care for the future
it takes just 'one cry'
to care for the future




In February of this year, Jeeja Ghosh, a teacher with cerebral palsy, was ordered to be deplaned by

a SpiceJet pilot in Utprabh Tiwari. In the discrimination that this so blatantly reveals, the act recalls an incident in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. On December 1st, Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was asked to surrender her seat on a bus to a white person, in accordance with the racial segregation law applicable to public transportation system. She refused and her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ended only when the US Supreme Court held that the law was unconstitutional.

Disability rights activists have been campaigning for years for the government of India to take clear steps to recognise the full rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities and remove the attitudinal and environmental barriers that prevent their full and effective participation in society. For the disability rights movement to succeed, government must be convinced that PWDs do indeed have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. However, its actions appear to show that it has yet to make up its mind. The government has, somewhere at the back of its mind, realised that persons with disabilities have different demands, but is not wholly convinced of the legitimacy of these demands. A study of Article 15 of the Constitution, highlights one of the possible reasons why it has not taken a stand. It states: “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.” It is obvious that there is no apparent constitutional bar on discrimination on the grounds of disability. Admittedly, at the time the Constitution was drafted, disability rights were not the hot topic that they are today. Let us however bear in mind that the Constitution has been amended 96 times, including twice after India ratified the UN


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, but no change has been made to prevent discrimination on the ground of disability. The constitutions of several countries, including Canada, South Africa and Sri Lanka, have specific non-discrimination provisions relating to persons with disabilities, but India has not followed suit. When the Constitution itself is unclear about where disabled persons stand in relation to something as fundamental as non-discrimination, no wonder then, that the nation has not taken a definite stance on disability rights. This lack of clarity translates into actions in relation to disabled persons, including with respect to air travel.

Jeeja Ghosh's incident is an example of the manifestation of this confusion. On May 1, 2008, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued a document as part of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs), entitled the Carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility. One of its objectives was to establish “regulations for the protection of, and provision of assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility travelling by air in order to protect them against any form of discrimination and to ensure that they receive all possible assistance with due respect and dignity.” As per Clause 4.1 of the CAR, “No airline shall refuse to carry persons with disability or persons with reduced mobility.” However, the CAR does not prescribe the consequences of non-compliance by airlines. The CAR also requires all airlines to run sensitisation programmes for assisting passengers with disabilities. However, it is silent on the exact nature of these sensitisation programmes, thereby leaving the scope of training to the discretion of individual airlines. As is evident from Jeeja Ghosh's experience, the training given, if any, is sorely inadequate. It can be safely assumed that if the pilot was properly sensitised on the requirements of persons with disabilities, and there were adverse consequences on non-compliance, airlines would comply with this document.

There are several other fundamental flaws with the CAR which stem from a lack of basic understanding of the very nature of disability. For example, it assumes that only persons with reduced mobility require assistance for air travel and does not provide for assistance to persons with hearing impairment, low vision, autism, etc, who have no mobility problems.

After a spate of recent incidents relating to discrimination against persons with disabilities by airlines and the consequent media uproar, the Ministry of Civil Aviation constituted a Committee to relook at the CAR PWD with the objective of amending the same to make it more comprehensive and also to prescribe an effective complaints redressal mechanism. This Committee includes representatives from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Director General of Civil Aviation, airlines and the Airports Authority of India. It has four members from the disability sector, namely, Shivani Gupta from the Disability Rights Group, Anjlee Agarwal from Samarthyam, Shekhar Borker, board member of the National Trust (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) and me.

By the time this article is printed, we would have submitted our report to the Ministry on the next steps to be taken to amend the CAR PWD. The thrust of our report is to identify deficiencies and make suggestions for improvement of the CAR PWD; propose changes in the allocation of responsibilities between the airline and airports based on international best practices; provide details of the training and sensitisation programmes to be conducted, the accessibility of airports and the ingredients of the complaints redressal mechanism.

This is a golden opportunity for the disabled sector to work with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to solve the problems faced by persons with disabilities, particularly due to the leadership of Asok Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, who is extremely receptive as well as sensitive to our problems.

Inclusive Planet Centre Of Disability Law and Policy




Right from the time our CavinKare Ability Awards were initiated in 2003, throughout the last ten years, our goal has always been to change the public perceptions about people with disabilities, to break stereotypes, to celebrate the diversity of humankind and to spotlight on the treasure trove of capabilities and talent that exist amidst disabled persons. Thus this year in 2012, for us, it was an equally beautiful event, other than the intensified emotional value as this was the tenth year of the Awards. We were nevertheless, struck by the extent to which we had succeeded in achieving our aims and the impact our Awards had on the audience which has been so lucidly brought out in Shantha Gabriel’s article.


Yet again, I eagerly awaited the invite in February and yet again, made my way well ahead of the start of the event to a good central seat in Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, on Saturday, February 18, 2012 for the 10th CavinKare Ability Awards.

Yet again, over the next two hours I was riveted to my seat (now, that isn't exactly true and you will soon see why), watching sheer grit, courage, determination, beauty and ability unfold themselves on the world's stage as Mastery Award recipients, followed by the Eminence Awardee were led to the tastefully decorated stage of the auditorium, whilst interesting video-clips contextualised their achievements, glorious citations were read out and cheques were presented... and the audience – then beginning to fill out, almost invisibly swelled to jam-pack the auditorium – burst into fresh and ever-louder applause each time an award was announced.

Yet, there was much that was not 'yet again'! This was a very special year for Ability Foundation and CavinKare, a splendid celebration of a stupendous achievement of a life-giving initiative that started, not one or two, but ten years ago. Initiating a venture itself is the difficult first step but sustaining it through a sheer labour of love, driven by a dream to dispel stereotypes and celebrate diversity; to foster in society an awareness of inclusion and a need for integration, and that too across the nation, for over a decade, is a movement that demands our respect, our active contribution, our humility and paradoxically, our pride as well, along with our heartfelt tribute to the pioneers and the many bodies that work closely to help realise a proud moment for India. I am sure this was the note on which the evening ended not just for me, but for all who gathered to witness an evening's programme, the orchestration of which was marked by class and style.

The release that evening of the Success & ABILITY magazine, Jan-March 2012, along with a CD was a significant value add-on. That each one of us could hold a free copy of this treasure of learning, in our own hands at the end of the day, was a gift to cherish. The editorial that dwells on the “magic in the CavinKare Ability awards” could not have expressed the spirit and purpose behind this journey, which is “all about milestones covered, about mindsets changed...”, better than in the reflections of Jayshree Raveendran. Her opening remarks on the achievements of the winners, the acknowledgement of support from CavinKare and Team Ability and the task that will always lie ahead of us, was a strong assessment of how far we have come on the road less travelled. Jayshree's was a speech that was truly passionate and yet free from sentiment: positive and not maudlin.

The evening was a celebration of not just the award winners of 2012 but highlighted through a well-paced flashback, scenes of joy from the past decade of awards. For those who had the privilege of sharing this experience every year, this was a refreshing glimpse of familiar faces and for others, it offered a time to pause and reflect on how individuals had overcome every kind of disability, to win against all odds, a place for themselves, with the support of their families and their caring friends, in a society that is slowly beginning to awaken to the strength of their ability.

Yet... a third difference this evening from previous years' was the sequencing of the programme itself. Every award was followed by an artistic performance and this proved to be a clever arrangement. It provoked our curiosity and interest in the


entertainment even as it heightened the expectation of seeing the award winners on stage. SignSpeak – the latest work of Sri Lanka's first contemporary dance company 'nATANDA' – where sign language has been used as the embodiment for developing gestures, poses and movements. The impact of ten months of training of young hearing impaired people in contemporary dance was excitingly visible both for the dancers and for the audience. The former, bursting with the freshness and vitality of youth, with not a trace of inhibition, caught up in the rhapsody of pure freedom, swept across the stage in white: gliding, holding, letting go, boldly stepping to the front and dreamily moving behind in silhouette. And I, as part of the audience, was stunned by the sheer beauty of this concept, where an exceptional piece of contemporary dance had evolved in quest of new 'mudras' originating from sign language. With every piece that unfolded on stage from nATANDA, I was fascinated by the distinctive choreography that blended ballet, yoga, Kandyan dance and other forms, all in a smoothly coordinated symphony of movements. I was not convinced that not being able to hear was a disability!

Azeem Bolar from Bangalore received one of the three Mastery Awards this year – a young man who had suddenly became 100% visually impaired and a hemiplegic, and had taught himself to walk, talk and write...all over again... and is today, one of the most sought after and preferred counsellors in Bangalore. As we heard more and watched him receiving the citation, the audience rose as one to give him a standing ovation. This spontaneous acknowledgement of honour from the 'able' audience, not just for Azeem but for every awardee, was truly heart-warming. I dare to hazard a thought here: I was surrounded by a group of predominantly young men, who looked engrossed and thoughtful. This group stood up even before the last word was read and I think this led the rest of the audience to do the same. Particularly I thought then, there was great hope for our country amidst the youth of the country. If my memory is correct, such a repeated standing ovation for every winner was not a wave that could have passed through the audience in their earlier years.

So instead of being riveted in my seat (as I said earlier) for the entire length of the programme, I found myself standing up again and again, to loudly cheer and acknowledge the achievements of Bhavna Botta who, born with athetoid cerebral palsy, is a strong willed young entrepreneur from Chennai, running her own venture, Saahaagika - one of Chennai's first boutiques to sell only ahimsa and organic silks. Her method of communication is unique – through an 'eye-pointing' chart. A meaningful silence spread through the audience when, as we


drew closer to the end of the programme and the winners expressed their responses, we could read and see Bhavna's outpouring of joy and gratitude.

Yet more... there was ARTICULATE dance group from Bengaluru – a special significance for both CavinKare & Ability Foundation. Not only had Buse Gowda and Guru Prasad performed with Revathy (whose MC role year after year adds not just the right tone of glamour to such an event but whose spirited presence and conviction lends an infectious enthusiasm to the evening's gathering) and with Jayshree Raveendran at the first anniversary of Ability Foundation way back in 1997... Buse Gowda was also one of the recipients of the very first CavinKare Ability Mastery Award in 2003. It would be impossible to know unless told, that these vigorous dancers - employing the motifs of Kalaripayattu of Kerala and the Thang-Tha of Manipur in the display of martial arts in Khadganaman: items requiring great precision and robust leaps with swords held in their hands & exacting harmony and perfect synchronisation- were dancers who had never known the world of sight!

The massive waves of joy and exhilaration that rolled over us as each piece of the evening unfolded itself was indeed overwhelming. We were witness to a celebration of the remarkable achievements of those who were challenged in different ways and there was not a minute to pause and get our breath. The organisers had so meticulously planned and timed the entire evening that there was no slack moment, no falling behind, no waste of words. The rich and rapid flow of the evening was in the characteristic style of Ability Foundation: restrained and yet full, deeply daunting and muted. We had to let the waves wash over us.

Riitesh Sinha, with severe cerebral palsy, whose small town was extremely reluctant to admit him in school, held a spectacular record first class in all his exams (entirely mainstream schooling and college) and a Masters in Information Technology. He had overcome rejections galore especially at school and dependence on others for mobility. He developed and crafted the Trike himself, so he could commute independently. Riitesh working as a software programmer and a computer trainer in Karnal is today employed in Haryana Government Service. His other passions lead him to learn and propagate yogic 'mudras' for the benefit of people with cerebral palsy. When the young man with the most friendly and charming smile came in to receive his award, how could we not have stood up to applaud?

Yet, amidst all this swinging enjoyment of fine balance between Mastery Awards recipients and scintillating dancers' performances, I knew the best was yet to come. The 2012 Award for Eminence was given to Mohammed Iqbal from far away Leh-Ladakh. With hardly any formal education, and practically no movement of the body, he had not only educated himself but had dedicated his life for the wellbeing of other disabled persons and to change their image from 'receivers' of


society to the 'contributors' to society. As the president of People's Action Group for Inclusion and Rights (PAGIR),whose initiatives included ‘Himalaya on Wheels’ (a first of its kind in India, promoting inclusive and accessible travel) and “Jungwa Shrugskyob” (waste to resource initiative). The audience who rose to applaud him this time, rose as a humbled single body to salute a man, who could not rise, but who had yet risen beyond everyone else. Those who listened intently to the Chief Guest's remarks understood it for what it was: the voice of the Government of India... represented by Cabinet Minister Mukul Wasnik, Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment.

The responses of all the awardees made it even more evident that they were not prepared to rest on their laurels: they had many more miles to go in their journey to spread joy in the lives of others like them.

It was a collective cry of appreciation when we heard the Minister refer to policy changes soon to be announced in our Equal Opportunities and Diversity Bill. A telling comment from him (from his participation at the Awards for the second time) as well as the others on the dais, was the inspiration and charged motivation on the extent of responsibilities to be done, after witnessing the CavinKare Ability Awards. Time to reflect, to introspect, to think ahead and to accomplish.

The audience also had the privilege of knowing the view point of the members of the Jury for the manner in which Team Ability had captured the nominees on video and the manner of selecting the recipients... We therefore could witness some of the passionate arguments of Mohini Giri and A R Rahman, to mention just two of the eminent panel, as they decided on the awardees.

As with the Oscar night that treats all guests to the world's most lavish spread of drinks and dinner, the CavinKare Ability Awards night too had a great spread on the menu (minus the alcohol, of course!). Guests jostled against each other, everyone vying not just for the food but to have a word with the awardees as well. This reminded me of my husband, Gabriel, and I having a word with one of the winners of 2011. A word and a smile with Babli Gambhir: the girl with the 'golden hands' and a thought had become possible as Babli found herself, for the first time, outside of her own little Jaora in Madhya Pradesh. Gabriel and his team in the north east enabled her to fly to Tura in Meghalaya and Imphal in Manipur, to run short-term training courses in beauty services and basics in her styling for women. In her own words, "The CavinKare Ability Award gave her wings to fly", and following this, today she has several other awards.

Such is the impact of the Awards night; that it jerks some to an awakening, it brings consciousness to some; it compels some to reflect; it inspires some to spring to action; and overall... it is for all... a humbling experience. If the Oscar night shimmers in beauty and acknowledges brilliant talent, so too does the CavinKare Ability Awards night. It honours achievement and an almost divine beauty of a wholly different kind, a kind of beauty that haunts and lingers, deeply moving the spirit. It does India proud to offer this to the world.



5000 years ago, Egyptian physicians categorised spinal cord injury as “an ailment not to be treated.” Thereafter, throughout human history, and indeed


up to World War II, it was believed that a spinal cord injury meant certain death at worst, and a lifetime of struggle at best. The world over, so much has changed since then. From better emergency care, treatment and rehabilitation, so much has been done and so much more that we can do after spinal cord injury.

The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that runs from the bottom of the brain down the back. It can truly be called the ‘messenger of the body.’ It’s the spinal cord that is responsible for messages from the brain to the rest of our body: relaying messages to our arms and legs to move, messages controlling the functions of heart, lungs, bowel and bladder and, messages controlling touch, pain, temperature and position. This being so, it is not difficult to see that an injury to the spinal cord has a huge impact on the body and its functioning.

The spinal cord itself is encased in, and protected by, the bones in our neck and back called vertebrae, which make up our backbone .When we refer to someone as being the backbone of something, indicating strength and support, it is with good reason... because it’s the backbone that protects what is precious to our bodies... the spinal cord. Besides, the spinal cord is very sensitive to injury and, unlike other parts of the body, does not have the ability to repair itself.

Fact is, a spinal injury can happen to anyone at any time- ‘unexpectedly’ and in unforeseen circumstances, at work or at play. India has the highest rate of people with spinal cord injury with numbers amounting to over 15 lacs.

This notwithstanding, it is a harsh reality and sobering truth that even today, in India, there are only two world class, state of the art spinal injury centres. It is also a sobering fact that it is mainly lack of awareness that remains a key problem. Not to mention attitude.

Terms like ‘Complete Spinal Cord Injury’. ‘Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury’. ‘Quadriplegia’ or ‘Tertraplegia.’ ‘Paraplegia;’ what do they mean? How much do we really know about spinal cord injury? What is a spinal cord injury anyway? What are the implications for rehabilitation? How have the people with spinal cord injuries who lead productive fulfilling and inspiring lives, achieved this?

To inform, interest and inspire is as always the aim of Success & ABILITY; and therefore, this special feature on spinal cord injury... Read on, be informed, get interested and be inspired!





Spinal cord injury is a high cost disability leading to drastic changes in an individual's life. Due to the many changes in the life of a person with spinal injury, emotional and psychological support too become an essential factor. Additionally, the financial impact of spinal injury is ex­tremely high as it leads to lengthy and recurrent hospitalisation, medical complications and extensive follow up care.

Today, worldwide there are about three million people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) with India having the highest number of cases, over 15 lacs with an increase of 20,000 cases every year. China comes second in line with 4.5 lacs and USA with 2.5 lacs. With such a soaring rate of SCI in our country, it is critical to look at rehabilitation as a sure way to put life back into the person's life and spirit

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