A Slice Of Life

Shalini Saraswathi lost all her four limbs but not her deter­mi­na­tion to live life ‘queen-size’ and run the marathons! Her gritty and awe-in­spir­ing story, in her own words…

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

Quadru­ple amputee Shalini Saraswathi’s nervewreck­ing saga

Liv­ing A Happy Life

“I lived a very nor­mal city life in Ban­ga­lore. And like ev­ery work­ing woman, my day would start with cook­ing, wor­ry­ing whether the maid was com­ing or not, and then get­ting ready to leave for of­fice. I worked as a Deputy Gen­eral Man­ager with First­source So­lu­tions, a BPO, and was do­ing very well for my­self.”

The Good News & The Bad

“It was in the year 2012. My hus­band Prashanth, who works as VP, Op­er­a­tions, in the same com­pany, and I had planned a va­ca­tion to Cam­bo­dia to cel­e­brate our fourth an­niver­sary. We came back from the va­ca­tion, and that’s when I dis­cov­ered I was preg­nant. We both were very happy. “But to­wards the end of March 2012, one day at work, I felt extremely tired and fever­ish. I got back home, and called my hus­band (who was trav­el­ling then). I was ac­tu­ally sup­posed to be with my in­laws for din­ner, but couldn’t make it as I had no strength. I called them and asked them to send some food over. I ate the food, and went to sleep, think­ing all would be fine. “But I woke up the next day, still not feel­ing bet­ter. I vis­ited the physi­cian, who said it was pretty nor­mal to have fever dur­ing preg­nancy and gave me some parac­eta­mol. But I was get­ting worse. My platelets were re­duc­ing, and that was when the doc­tors thought that maybe I was suf­fer­ing from dengue. I was ad­mit­ted at the Ma­ni­pal Hospi­tal.”

Straight To The ICU

“It was March 28th, and I had a very dif­fi­cult night in the hospi­tal. I could not sleep, and was breath­less. Dr Karanth came in the morn­ing and shifted me to the ICU, con­sid­er­ing I was preg­nant, but he was not sure what was hap­pen­ing to me. “That, how­ever, was my last mem­ory. I don’t re­mem­ber what hap­pened to me the next five or seven days af­ter that.”

Los­ing Con­scious­ness & Mul­ti­ple Or­gan Fail­ure

“In those five days, the doc­tors fig­ured out that I was down with a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion called rick­ettsial with morts - a very rare in­fec­tion, and the only time the doc­tor heard of this bac­te­ria was in his exam pa­per! “It led to mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure. My heart had stopped beat­ing, my lungs were filled with

“It was in the year 2012. My hus­band and I had planned a va­ca­tion to Cam­bo­dia to cel­e­brate our fourth an­niver­sary. We came back from the va­ca­tion, and that’s when I dis­cov­ered I was preg­nant.”

water, my kid­neys didn’t func­tion… I was put on the ven­ti­la­tor. “The doc­tors spoke to my fam­ily and got to know about my visit to Cam­bo­dia, and that’s how they fig­ured out about rick­ettsial with morts, a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion – from dog tick that sets in­side the body for a month be­fore it re­acts. “But even af­ter fig­ur­ing out what I had, I pro­gres­sively got worse. The doc­tors didn’t think I would bounce back as I was on sup­port sys­tem. They in­formed my fam­ily that my sur­vival chances were not more than 5%. But I re­cov­ered slightly, and woke up on the fourth day - on 5th April, the day of my birth­day.”

Preg­nant Pause & Bat­tling Gan­grene

“Af­ter a week of be­ing un­con­scious, I re­alised that my hands and legs had turned bluish. I didn’t pay at­ten­tion to it then as I was preg­nant with in­fec­tion and had throm­bo­sis (clot­ting of blood ves­sels) of the ex­trem­i­ties. This dis­ease has the ten­dency to clot the blood in the uterus, the blood ves­sels and it kills the baby (which is what hap­pened in my case) and pretty much clogs the mother too. “I was moved out of the ICU in a few days, and was asked to meet the psy­chi­a­trist, as there was a slight chance that my limbs would have to be am­pu­tated. I didn’t be­lieve that it would ac­tu­ally hap­pen to me. “I came home, took the med­i­ca­tion, started on oxy­gen ther­apy and tried var­i­ous things think­ing some­thing would work. But noth­ing did. A month later, gan­grene had set in, and be­fore my brain and heart could ac­cept it, my nose smelt the rot! “To treat my gan­grene, the doc­tor would cut some flesh from that part of my leg to get rid of it, and this was done with­out anaes­the­sia be­cause the doc­tors didn’t know how far up the in­fec­tion was. The minute I would scream, he would know that it’s the ‘good’ flesh they have reached up to. I would bawl like a child, and the nurses and peo­ple around me shed a tear too - prob­a­bly for my fate!”

Healing With Ayurveda

“Af­ter a month, some­one ad­vised us to see Swami Nir­malananda­giri Ma­haraj in Ker­ala, and be­ing a Ta­mil­ian, I felt Ayurveda would work. When we went there, he gave us hope that ev­ery­thing will im­prove, and we were very happy that for the first time in months some­one was will­ing to help us. “A month into the treat­ment, the gan­grene started dis­ap­pear­ing from my body. The pus, the rot, ev­ery­thing was go­ing away. It was beau­ti­ful. I got rid of all the harsh steroids and med­i­ca­tion.”

Brav­ing The First Am­pu­ta­tion, And Then The Next

“With my treat­ment in process, I started work­ing from home. But be­cause I used to be on the lap­top all day, the fin­gers of

“The doc­tors didn’t think I would bounce back as I was on sup­port sys­tem. They in­formed my fam­ily that my sur­vival chances were not more than 5%. But I re­cov­ered slightly, and woke up on the fourth day - on 5th April, the day of my birth­day.”

my left hand were frac­tured. My hands looked like the dry branch of a tree, and it felt the same too. The doc­tors were not able to help me with the frac­ture then, so in March 2013, my left hand had to be am­pu­tated. “We knew the legs were re­place­able as pros­thet­ics were avail­able but not much was avail­able in the hands’ sec­tor. So our main aim was to save my right hand, but un­for­tu­nately, in Au­gust 2013, my right hand au­toam­pu­tated – one day, it just fell off on its own.”

And Fi­nally, The Legs

“It struck me then that things won’t get any bet­ter. While we did not know what to do, I knew this was a sign – a sign to move on. We took the de­ci­sion to go ahead with am­pu­tat­ing the legs the next month. I was re­lieved - I knew I could only move for­ward now and there was no stop­ping me. “I ar­rived at the hospi­tal with the bright­est pur­ple nail pol­ish on my feet. If my legs were go­ing out, they were go­ing to go out in style! How did I go through all this – I hon­estly don’t know. But in Septem­ber 2013, we went for my fi­nal surgery and got my limbs am­pu­tated by Dr Anan­thesh­war at Ma­ni­pal Hospi­tal.”

Mov­ing On – With A Smile!

“I started my prac­tice for pros­thet­ics from the month of Novem­ber. In Fe­bru­ary 2014, I was given my full set of pros­thetic legs, and I fi­nally started to walk in­side the house. I was al­ways into sports and dance since my child­hood, so sit­ting at home was extremely dif­fi­cult for me. And with no ac­tiv­ity for two years, I had gained weight. I de­cided to be fit now. “It was not easy as gyms didn’t know how to train a per­son like me. So I de­cided to walk. That is when I met coach Aiyappa through a com­mon friend. He had not trained any­one like me be­fore but he was more than happy to train me. He was very pos­i­tive.”

Slow Walk, And Run

“My train­ing was killing at the start as I would walk for a day and my legs would swell up. I had no stamina. It took a lot for me to start ac­cept­ing my pros­thet­ics as an ex­ten­sion of my own body. But my coach en­cour­aged me a lot. “For the first one month, we only walked and did small ex­er­cises. My coach al­ways treated me like a nor­mal per­son, and never gave me any lib­erty. He used to note

“Af­ter a lot of prac­tice, one day, I fin­ished my 10 km run in two-and-a-half hours and that’s when I felt a boost of con­fi­dence! Though I was dy­ing at the end of the two-and-a-half hours but the fact that I was able to do it was a big emo­tional high for me.”

With hus­band be­fore am­pu­ta­tion; and af­ter “My hus­band, of course has been the strong­est sup­port sys­tem in my en­tire jour­ney. Whether it was de­cid­ing on the pros­thetic brand or which doc­tor to go to, it was all his de­ci­sion. His con­stant care, love and sup­port has al­ways been with me.”

my speed, and I re­ally en­joyed be­ing chal­lenged and see­ing my im­prove­ment. I felt happy. “I slowly started to run a lit­tle with my pros­thet­ics. And then one fine day, my coach said, ‘Let’s do a five km run and take part in the marathon’. I just said yes, as I was go­ing off on a hol­i­day to the US for a while. But when I came back, my coach in­formed me it was now a 10 km run. I was shocked!”

The Marathon – A Per­sonal Vic­tory

“But I started prac­tic­ing daily. I used to get up at 5 a.m, reach the sta­dium at 6.30 a.m and run till about 8 a.m. Af­ter a lot of prac­tice, one day, I fin­ished my 10 km run in two-and-a-half hours and that’s when I felt a boost of con­fi­dence! Though I was dy­ing at the end of the two-and-a-half hours but the fact that I was able to do it was a big emo­tional high for me. “Just a few days be­fore the run, the coach in­formed the me­dia about it and I thought ab toh sabko bol diya (now that every­one has been told), there is no look­ing back. TCS World 10K got in touch with me – they had started the Be­liev­ers’ Se­ries where there were five peo­ple who were run­ning for var­i­ous causes, and all them were ‘spe­cial’. I was one of them. My ex­pe­ri­ence at this marathon was re­ally amaz­ing.”

New Be­gin­nings

“I am com­pletely fine now, and the only time I have to visit the hospi­tal is when some­one else is not well. The doc­tors had told me that I would have to live on steroids for­ever but Ayurveda has healed me and now I am off steroids. I am per­fectly healthy - like any nor­mal per­son - just miss a few limbs… I work full­time, I travel, I go for movies, I dance, I run and I have not given up any­thing in my life. “My hus­band, of course, has been the strong­est sup­port sys­tem in my en­tire jour­ney. Whether it was de­cid­ing on the pros­thetic brand or which doc­tor to go to, it was all his de­ci­sion. His con­stant care, love and sup­port has al­ways been with me. “There are some ne­go­ti­a­tions I have to make. Like I can­not dance the way I used to, nor can I go out alone. I need some­body around me all the time, but then I feel like a Ma­ha­rani. I am given a bath, some­body does my hair, some­body feeds me and some­body gives me water. I don’t have to move a fin­ger, and all my jobs are done. “So I am liv­ing my life, my dreams - limbs or no limbs!” HARSHA ADVANI

With coach Aiyappa

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