“On World Disability Day, I’m proud and disabled”: Virali Modi

This is a logo of the International Day of People with Disability. It has a figure casually standing next to the words International Day of People with Disabilities. On either side of the figure, colourful ribbons fly.
Try imagining yourself in this scenario: You’re in the car, about to go to a friends place for a party, get together, or dinner; all of a sudden a car hits you. You have no idea what’s happening, and you black out. The next thing you remember is that you’re waking up with all these bright lights around you, you feel numb. Your family realizes that you’re awake and they all gather by your bed. They’re all crying, and you don’t understand why.

When you try to move your hands and legs, you can’t. You feel as though you can, but you really can’t. You ask your family what happened, and they briefly explain that you were in an accident, and the impact severed the nerve(s) in the spinal cord. You learn that you’ll never be able to walk, go to the bathroom on your own, and you will never be able to feel any sensation, ever again. (Let’s take a break, how are you feeling right now? Are you upset? Could you feel the confusion, the pain, and the frustration?). This is what happened to me in 2006, sure it isn’t the exact same scenario, but it’s somewhat the same.

This is how it feels, everyday. You can’t move your body voluntarily, you can’t feel anything and you can’t go to the bathroom by yourself – in privacy. You are completely dependent on your family, nurses, and aides. Do you understand how difficult it is to go from being perfectly healthy to becoming a vegetable (for the lack of a better word)? Right now, go lie down, and don’t move for five minutes, seriously, no moving whatsoever, even if you have an itch. That’s how it feels. It’s unbearable, right? I bet, you couldn’t even last a minute. I’m just trying to help you understand that the situation is horrid.

With this image, pictured below, you can see the levels of the spine that correspond to certain muscles and body parts. This is incredibly important because it will help you understand what happens to someone when they lose all voluntary control of their muscles.

image of spinal cord

Then, something amazing happens. You go to physical therapy, and they teach you techniques that will help you get dressed, take a bath, and other private things for your everyday life. You’re getting your privacy back, your independence, and your life. That’s a wonderful thing. Small things like these kinds of achievements make someone, who’s wheelchair bound, extremely proud of themselves. But wait, that’s not the cherry on the top. What’s even more extraordinary is when someone who doesn’t have use of his/hers legs or arms can do something better than an able bodied person. Now, that’s amazing.

What many people don’t understand is that life can’t be taken for granted. Your limbs, your breath, the sense of touch, and emotions shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. If every able bodied person actually realized this, and used their senses, brain, and knowledge to their advantage, I bet a lot of great things could be accomplished.

Some people tend to view me as an egoistic disabled person, because I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished. Why shouldn’t I be? Why shouldn’t anyone be proud of the things they accomplish, whether they’re disabled or not? On World Disability Day, I think we all need to embrace the fact that we should be proud to accomplish even the smallest of things, whether or not they seem small — because no accomplishment is small. Every accomplishment should be celebrated and you should be proud.

Featured image credit: Erewise