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The wheelchair has given me wings to fly! - My Take by Dr Divya Singh

Disability changed her life but not her passion to heal. In My Take this week, we have Dr Divya Singh, a pediatrician in Ranchi, who makes a passionate argument that being disabled does not come in the way of being a good doctor.

From childhood I was raised to think that studying engineering or medicine was a noble profession. My father, who has a background in engineering, encouraged me and my siblings to look at pursuing either profession and as I grew older, I made up my mind to become a doctor.

I was also somewhat influenced by coaching centers which had images of people with stethoscopes and catchy phrases like "want to be a doctor", and when my dad told the stethoscope is something that needs to be earned by hard work, I made up my mind to do that and proudly earn it.

I went on to do my MBBS in Ranchi and did an MD in pediatrics and later a fellowship in pediatric intensive care from JIPMER, Pondicherry for a year. It was while I was pursuing my senior residency that I met with a road accident. This was in 2013 in Delhi when I was there to take an exam. The accident was a major one and I had multiple cuts on my face, fractures of the scapula and a severe spinal injury. I was completely paralyzed beyond the neck.

I was operated at the trauma center of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) with a cervical implant and underwent a traumatic six-month stay. It changed my life totally. From living an independent, confident and enthusiastic life, I became dependent and subdued. It took me quite some time to get out of that mind space and understand that when you have a life, in whatever way, give it your 100%.

Wheelchair is no barrier

Yes, my life rotates on a wheelchair and I need assistance, but it has never stopped me from pursuing my dreams. In fact, I feel free and work like anyone else, doing all my chores in a practical way. This wheelchair has given me wings to fly.

People regard disability as bad karma and bad luck. They have sympathy to share but no empathy. Very few people see the ability beyond your disability, but over the years I have proven them wrong. Disability can happen to anyone at any time and it does not stop you from enjoying yourself and living life on your terms.

There is also this notion that someone with a disability should sit at home, be taken care of, and is always a burden to family and society. I was lucky that my parents never had this mindset. As soon as I was back home from hospital, my dad encouraged me to start working on my wheelchair. Thanks to my family's support, disability never hampered my goals.

However, challenging this mindset is hard. I had to fight the odds, and government policy to fit in and to work as usual on a wheelchair. Maybe because I was the first disabled candidate of my type who challenged the policy, it took some time, but the government took my request into consideration and today I work at a reputed medical college.

I don't think we should feel disheartened because things are changing and people with disabilities are getting noticed. The number of disabled people who want to pursue medicine is growing and it is time the government took note of this. Given the right opportunity, we can also excel and have performed better than our non-disabled counterparts. So, I want to say believe in our potential, give us opportunities to show our talents. Disability can affect the body, but not the spirit or your knowledge base.

Let me make it clear that we are not asking for favors. We are eligible for any profession as per our skill and knowledge so recognize that and create job opportunities for each and every one of us. Enable us by making buildings, government and private, wheelchair-friendly. Let us not be felt rejected and recognize our rights!

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