Life beyond Wheels
Hitisha Jain 04 April 2014

Crucial to rehabilitation of paraplegics is emotional and psychological support, finds Hitisha Jain

You never know where fate can lead you. A fraction of a second could confine you to a life on a wheelchair. Paraplegic Foundation works for paraplegics. This permanent disability usually occurs due to a fall, injury or infection of the spinal cord.

Paraplegics have no control and no sensation in their extremities (legs and even hands in case of quadriplegics) and have little or no bowel and bladder control. They need emotional and psychological support immediately on discharge, since many of them may contemplate suicide. Paraplegic Foundation was set up by Sulabha Warde (president emeritus) a medical social worker and Dr Ashraf Machhiwala, physiotherapist. Both were working then at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (LTMG) Hospital (Mumbai).
The Foundation’s aim is to work towards total rehabilitation including emotional, psychological, physical, educational and economic. The motto of the Foundation ‘I can, I will’, was adopted in 1968. The founders noticed that there was no organisation to look into their post-rehabilitation needs. This inspired them to start the Foundation.

Ms Warde started an NGO for people with disabilities, in the memory of her brother. “Slowly I realised that paraplegic patients face more severe and painful problems than those with other disabilities, so, I thought of concentrating only on paraplegia,” she says. “The first four patients were very difficult to handle. Unfortunately, two of them died because the medical facilities were not very advanced then,” she recalls.

Lack of awareness and funds were among the many challenges faced by the founders. Though there are many organisations working for the disabled, there is less awareness regarding the special needs of paraplegics. “Due to lack of sensation in their limbs, for example; you could drive a nail into the foot of a paraplegic and he/she will not feel anything or realise this! Moreover, due to lack of sensation, bedsores are a constant issue,” says Sandeep Balani, joint honorary secretary of the Foundation.

The organisation provides shelter to about 25 in-patients; most of them have recently become paraplegics and need nine to 18 months of rehabilitation and therapy. Every activity in the rehabilitation process is given a name. Sathi-Munch is a support group for creating awareness, sensitising people about paraplegia, promoting interaction between paraplegics, taking up disability rights-related issues with the authorities. Suruchi provides free high-protein meals to beneficiaries. Sweekar is a ‘half way rehabilitation home’ for in-patients and provides personalised services of care and affection. Professionals like doctors, physiotherapists, social workers, counsellors provide free treatment like acupressure, acupuncture and medicines.

Shramsafalya is a training centre which provides economic support by training them in block printing, making sanitary pads, envelopes, stationery, etc. Thirty beneficiaries are trained in the art department and workshop and stalls have been provided to 27 paraplegics at municipal and government hospitals to sell the items made by them.

Sahayya is an effort to provide aids and appliances such as tricycles, wheelchairs, walkers, and mattress. Medical aid and financial assistance is provided to paraplegics, including vocational training for children. Jigar conducts sports sessions. Games like cricket and throwball are played, which give joy and confidence to patients and encourages team spirit amongst them.

While the two founders pooled in their own resources to start the Foundation, it now has several donors including GlaxoSmithKline India. “We are planning to set up another residential rehabilitation centre, a 25 bed, in-patient facility, at our Sanjeevan Deep premises at Airoli, Navi Mumbai similar to the one at Sion,” says Mr Balani.

Donations are exempt under Section 80G of Income-Tax Act. Donations in kind, like wheelchairs and other rehabilitation aids, are also welcome.

Paraplegic Foundation
T-1, Old barracks of LTMG Hospital,
Next to VGP showroom, Sion, Mumbai 400022
Tel: 24071671 / 24033669
Email: [email protected]

Ramesh Poapt
10 years ago
ML-articles from Dr Hegde not visible since long!Pl.restart it at least once a fortnight!
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