A fter almost 3 years of my spinal cord injury, I came to know about a SCI peer group by The Spinal Foundation. They had also set up a WhatsApp group of females with SCI and that’s when I first got to know of Ekta. Before her, I had interacted with only one quadriplegic female. I was thrilled to know more about her and loved interacting. We exchanged several messages about how we got our injuries, what we do currently and the commonalities between us. She was a pro at being a SCI and clarified many of my doubts. Then one fine day the Indian Spinal Injury Centre organised a meet for SCI from all over the country and I got to meet her. While she is one of the best peer mentors any female with SCI can have, she’s also made all of us proud by becoming a para-athlete and winning medals for the country.
Ekta Bhyan’s #LifeBeyondSCI
I’m born in the city Hisar of Haryana. My father is a retired horticulture officer and my mother is a housewife. I’m second among three siblings. Life was full of fun and frolic, passion to achieve dreams. I just completed my schooling by then.
It was 2003, I completed my school and had a dream of becoming a doctor. But destiny had some other plans for me and on the very first day of my coaching in Delhi, I met with a severe road accident. Our car was parked and stationary, and suddenly an overloaded Truck of vegetables fell on our car. People gathered around the site and called for a crane to lift the truck. When the crane lifted the truck up a little, it’s chain broke and again the truck fell on the car. It was raining heavily that day. People gathered around us and with huge efforts somehow managed to take me out of the car, but it took a long time for the ambulance to arrive. People shifted me into the vehicle without any kind of support to my neck. Four people held me with my four limbs. I was conscious the entire time but I couldn’t realise what had actually happened to me. All I could feel was severe pain in my neck .
After the accident I was initially taken to a small clinic nearby and then later to a Government hospital in Delhi. Till then, no special attention was paid to my injury. I underwent tests at the Govt hospital and came to know about my injury, that too only its name i.e. spinal cord injury. I had no idea what it was all about. By then, my parents also reached the hospital.
I had an injury at the cervical level, so the Govt doctors refused to operate on me stating that I had bleak chances of survival and that it is risky to operate. They put traction on my head. Two days later we came to know about the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Delhi and I was shifted there. The doctors here told us about the injury and complications associated with its surgery. I underwent three surgeries and my rehab was started. I spent 9 months in hospital. In that hospital peer counsellors, physiotherapist and occupational therapist gave me an understanding of the injury and how things can still be done.
Life beyond spinal cord injury
Initially it was very challenging to come at terms with a severe disability and wheelchair-life. Gradually, acceptance came. With the consistent support of my parents I started adapting to my new life. I enrolled in a college, completed my Bachelors and Masters, and secured a job with the Haryana Civil Services.
After I got selected in Haryana civil services, one of my interviews was circulated on social media. Somehow it reached my present coach – Mr Amit Saroha, an Arjun Awardee. Amit asked one of his friends from Hisar (my home town) if he knows me and got my contact details. He asked me if I would like to join para sports. I also wanted to explore something new and thought of giving it a try. From there onwards my journey with Club Throw sport began. Club throw is a para athletic event only for players with a quadriplegic disability. The objective of the sport is to throw a wooden club, which has a weight of around 400 gms, over a long distance while you are seated on a chair. I won my first National medal in this sport 2016. Since then, I have won 8 National and 4 International medals.
After my gold medal at Grand prix, Tunisia Hon. Prime Minister Sir shared my story on Mann Ki Baat, it was a complete surprise for me. My uncle heard my name on the radio and immediately called me. He asked me “do u know ur story is shared on Mann Ki Baat?” After this, my phone kept on ringing, many people were calling to tell me the same. I also received an appreciation letter from Prime Minister Sir.
After that I also received an honour to meet Hon. Prime Minister Sir when I won a gold medal at Asian Para games in 2018. It was a very happy and proud moment. Now, I have also qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics and am busy with its preparation.
Being quadriplegic and disabled, travelling is challenging. It can be made easy only with accessible infrastructure. I like visiting natural sites. From all the places I have travelled in the past, I liked Australia the most. Almost every place was accessible, even the hilltop at Hobart. That is the most beautiful place I have been to. Other places in Australia which were beautiful to visit include Beach at Lorne, 12 apostles at Port Campbell National Park, Peterborough, and Mount lofty.
Message for people who are newly injured
Human beings have the biggest strength of “adapting” to every situation. And gradually, acceptance and adaptation come. We just need to focus on things that still can be done and almost everything is possible to achieve. Do hard work and have faith, a better life is waiting for you.