The Rotary Viklang Kendra, a project of RC Delhi Central, RI District 3010, since 1988, exudes a sense of both competence and comfort. Comfort for the physically challenged who need artificial limbs that are lightweight, flexible and aid their mobility to the maximum.
As its Chairman, Dr N Subramanian, walks me through its new facility, built on government land gifted to Rotary in 1998, we find Sachin Kumar (28), who owns a small shop, waiting for some adjustments on his artificial foot. In 2001, he lost his foot when he slipped and fell while boarding a train. “I first went to a Government hospital to get an artificial limb but it was too heavy.”
In 2004, at Viklang Kendra he got a comfortable limb fitted free of cost; it was replaced five years later. He now needs another adjustment; “as muscles shrink, the beneficiaries need replacement,” says Dr Subramanian. A beaming Kumar says that now he can, not only walk comfortably, but cycles to work. What is more; he can squat on an Indian toilet too!
PDG Ranjan Dhingra, a long-time chairman of the Kendra till three years ago, says spontaneously: “Do you pray for us?”
Dr Subramanian explains they use the Jaipur foot as the base and then work on it to make the artificial limb as comfortable as possible.“The idea is to get them out of wheel chairs and make them mobile; we manage that for most by fitting them with callipers, splints or some refitting of the limbs. When that doesn’t work, we provide crutches, wheel chairs and other mobility aids. The idea is also to free their family care-givers for gainful employment.”
The corpus of nearly Rs 2 crore which has come in over years — Rs 4 lakh from Subramanian and spouse Lalitha requesting their friends on their 25th wedding anniversary to avoid gifts and donate for this cause instead – provides half of the monthly running cost of around Rs 3.5 lakh. The Ministry of Social Justice, which pays for the limbs of the patients it sends, and a couple of private foundations, give regular donations. “And of course, in our club, on birthdays, anniversaries and other happy occasions, people donate artificial limbs,” he smiles.
The average cost of a limb is Rs 2,000–4,000; all given free to disadvantaged sections. While the number of polio patients is limited, 16-year-old Priyanka is one. She got polio when she was eight months old, and till three years ago when she got fitted with a comfortable artificial limb here, “mei ghuton pe chalti thi (I used to crawl on my knees),” she says. Fitted with a splint and callipers, now she can walk comfortably without limping. She is studying in a government school and wants to become a teacher.
Dr Subramanian, who is passionate about this service, says in India many people lose their limbs because of poor understanding of what needs to be done after injuries. Diabetics and smokers too are susceptible to loss of limbs. At this centre, mostly lower limbs are fitted; “we do offer upper limbs but they have limited functionality.”
Dhingra introduces me to Ramesh Das, “our first employee as technician in the limb manufacturing unit, who has fitted himself with an artificial limb. Here we have a much higher level of engineering and mechanical involvement. We take a primary Jaipur foot which is very light weight, fine-tune and adjust it. Now he is able to walk, jump, run and he too cycles to work.”
Das has now become an expert at fitting people with such prosthesis, which need to be changed every five years. The Centre also has three physiotherapists and capital expenditure on the entire equipment has been around Rs 80 lakh, “of which Rs 20 lakh we spent recently,” adds Dhingra.
Subramanian, who is also involved in Trauma Care India says spinal injury patients have a lot of urinary problems too, and hence his connect and passionate involvement with this centre. One such patient who came to him in Apollo Hospitals, where he practices, was Sachin Chamadia, who had bladder problems due to his spinal injury.
From an affluent family, some years ago as a Class 11 student holidaying in Kolkata with his cousins, the youngster, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was involved in a car accident. By the time the rescue team arrived he was paralysed down the neck. “Both Lalitha and I have done the First Responder Course, or primary trauma care course, on what precautions should be taken in transporting such patients. The first is preventing further damage through safe transportation,” says Subramanian. Incidentally a seat belt and helmet can prevent 85 per cent deaths.
In western countries, head injury victims are never transported without a cervical collar or neck support. “But unfortunately here, they are held by hands and legs while being shifted. With Chamadia too this happened. He came to me paralysed with no hand or leg movement and no bladder or bowel control.”
After many surgical and other procedures in India and US, Chamadia has recovered to a point of reasonable hand movement, and with a pro-mobile chair, he can get into his own vehicle and drive.”
He has now graduated from the Sriram College of Commerce in Delhi and joined his family business where he is very productive as a director as his brain function is fine. His bladder is managed by a special catheter. “What I like about him the most is that he has never believed he is a victim. He is a go-getter and when we invited him as a speaker he said, ‘you can either give up, give in or give it all you have. I’ve done the last.’ He is always open to sharing his story, lessons learnt and how individuals need to respond if they are injured in accidents. He is a role model to me,” adds Subramanian.