Hurled From A Bike
A majority of young motorcyclists in India do not wear helmets. So when accidents happen, catastrophic injuries result. Vyshakh meets the challenge of quadriparesis.
By Sujata Devadas, April 18, 2016
“I cannot get up.”
8:00 am on a Friday morning, Vyshakh Jinarajan skipped down the steps of his tenanted apartment building in Chennai, capital city of Tamil Nadu, India, to hop onto his friend *Raghav’s borrowed bike and drive to Raghav’s house 10 minutes away where they planned to study together for an exam in the afternoon.
He reached Raghav’s house, steering the bike — a Honda CBZ, 2007 model — close to the boundary wall to park it there. Suddenly, a motorcyclist drove up from the wrong side inches away from him. Taken utterly by surprise, Vyshakh instinctively jammed his brake. His bike jerked to a halt, and he was hurled forward and over it, his bare head and neck hitting the boundary wall as he fell.
Vyshakh had a licence to ride bikes. Raghav’s Honda CBZ was registered. But in India, it is never questioned that the vast majority of bike-riders like Vyshakh, do not wear helmets. Raghav looked out when he heard the screech of brakes, to see Vyshakh sprawled at the gate. He ran out to help him. As Raghav hovered in consternation, Vyshakh realised he could not feel his legs any more. He told Raghav, “I cannot get up”.
Spinal injury diagnosis
Malar hospital was a five-minute drive away. A shocked Raghav and his aunt brought Vyshakh here for critical emergency medical care. It was 9:30 am.
“Four of my friends have died in motorcycle accidents,” Vyshakh recounts. “Head injuries are quite common. Spinal cord injuries too. Think about it… even if you drive safely, braking to avoid a rider passing from the wrong side resulted in my fall and spinal cord injury. There is not a scratch on Raghav’s bike. I am alive; but strapped to a wheel chair with quadriparesis.”
What does that mean? It means Vyshakh cannot move any of his four limbs. “Every level in your spinal cord” explains Vyshakh, “controls nerves that reach some part of your body. It is like an electrical circuit. If the circuitry is damaged at the spine, messages do not reach their intended place inside the body. My accident damaged nerves connected to my fingers and legs. I use a wheelchair for mobility now. Nothing else suffered any injury.”
Chennai’s 2007 Accident Statistics
Vyshakh’s accident happened in 2007.
In that year.
7,570 were the total number of reported accidents for Chennai in 2007, directly impacting 8,384 people;
1,146 people were killed in 1,110 traffic accidents;
1,907 people suffered grievous injury in 1,564 road accidents;
5,331 minor injuries from 4,376 accidents;
33 % of accident victims were in the 15-29 age group.
In 2014, Tamil Nadu had 67,232 road accidents — the highest in India — and the second highest number of traffic fatalities at 15,176.
Source: State Transport Authority, Government of Tamil Nadu, the Chennai City Traffic Police and The Hindu, Chennai’s mainstream newspaper
At 11:00 am, neurosurgeon Dr. Ravi Ramamoorthy headed a team of surgeons who began surgery to heal Vyshakh after his C6 and C7 cervical injury. His parents in Abu Dhabi were informed. Post surgery, still in the ICU, Vyshakh understood his physical limitations and received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Neurosurgeon Dr. Ramamoorthy stood by the side of his patient's bed and emphasised: “Remember, Vyshakh. Do not underestimate your brain. It is perfectly intact. Your life will be unconventional perhaps, but it has immense value.” That was the greatest affirmation for Vyshakh to hold on to.
Born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, Vyshakh topped 10th grade in Our Own English High School. He secured 84 per cent in 12thgrade at the Abu Dhabi Indian School to join Anna University (main campus, Chennai) for mechanical engineering, clearing the entrance exams on merit in the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota. His ambition was to be an aeronautical engineer. But his mentor, his father’s ex-colleague, K.S.P Thakur, a businessman and an engineer himself, from the Indian state of Bihar, advised him to begin graduation with a wider spectrum engineering field, before specialising in Aeronautics.
Vyshakh smiles with irony “I am now half a mechanical engineer from Anna University,” he says, “and a commerce graduate, now doing masters in computer applications in Abu Dhabi.”
Eight years since
A lot has changed for Vyshakh eight years after the accident. He remained in hospital for a month. His Chennai college friends — Raghav, Rohit and their parents — as well as his school friend Dinesh’s family, helped meet medical expenses in that first month !
Upon leaving Malar Hospital in Chennai, they chose the Indo American Brain and Spine Centre in Kottayam for rehabilitation. “Although this institution was set up by the eminent neurosurgeon Dr. Bahuleyan, I came to the harsh realisation that they may quite well have excellent surgical accom- plishments, but their five-month long rehabilitation therapy did nothing for me.” Vyshakh was bedridden for two years, unable to sit up.
But since then, a month’s rehabilitation therapy in Abu Dhabi, physiothera- py, occupational therapy and three Ayurvedic treatment sessions — each of a month’s duration — in three years at the internationally-acclaimed Kottakkal Ayurvedashaala in Kerala helped to halt muscle wastage. The cumulative benefits of all this meant that Vyshakh takes care of most of his own needs now. Successive occupational therapists and physiotherapists used their creative skill to help Vyshakh, one of them designing an assistive de- vice to help him use his computer well enough.!
Panchakarma Ayurvedic Therapy
In the medical condition of quadriparesis, all four of a person’s limbs lose their range of mobility, resulting in neuromuscular weakness or dystrophy.
Panchakarma (five treatments) therapy in Ayurveda uses:
Herbal poultice applied to weaker muscles to prevent them from wasting away. “I looked like a mummy for three hours,” says Vyshakh, laughing.
‘Padhyam’/Diet regimen: no salt, no sugar, no tamarind. These are added for taste; none of this is required for nutrition.
Medicated hot oil massage and bath, as well as,
‘Dhara’ to stimulate nerves and intensify the messages given by the brain.
Back in Abu Dhabi, Vyshakh got himself a part-time job in marketing and client relations for a printing and advertising agency, directed to it by his school art teacher Manjusha Manoj - his first taste of earning an income. Now, he is looking for better job prospects.
“Financial independence is my goal. Medical care is expensive, I know. Luckily, Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) provided me health insurance as a special needs patient, termed ‘AOUNAK’, managed by Daman health insurance company. Contentment with life is more important than happiness. I have the intellect and proof that I can hold a job. Over time, so many changes for the better have happened in me. With requisite finances, further recovery is perfectly possible.”
His stay-at-home Mom, Suma, is his constant caregiver and closest friend. “She thinks in my age-group” says Vyshakh smiling. His father, Jinarajan, is a quieter parent and supporter. “My closest friends Dinesh, Raghav and Rohit, my close school friend Hari too, helped me at a crisis and are still in touch with me. They encourage me to watch for ways to tell children entering college, or those in the college age-group, that bikes are not necessary. My entire family had cautioned me against bikes. I did not listen.” says Vyshakh “Youngsters just do not reduce speed to conform to safety. I gave a television interview to a Kerala channel last year. I also addressed students and the faculty at Our Own English School, Abu Dhabi at their graduation ceremony in March 2015. It is crucial that listeners understand and accept the need to prioritize safety.”
Vyshakh enjoys good conversation. He reads for knowledge and entertainment, loves good food, good music and travel. His latest trips have been to Switzerland and Paris. He waits with anticipation for effective affordable remedies to heal cervical injuries by promoting nerve cell regeneration. The sooner, the better.