Wednesday, 15 January 2014

BLOWN SKY HIGH - Naik Dharamveer Singh

Naik Dharamveer Singh

26 February, 1996. On this fateful day, Naik Dharamveer Singh’s life was to change for ever. Tall, broad-shouldered, and a tough and fearless soldier, on that day he became a paraplegic.

Dharamveer Singh (then 31) was posted in a forward area of Nagaland, which was going through turbulent times of insurgency. “We called it Operation Orchid. The situation was so dangerous, that all our folks always travelled under heavy armed escort, even our school-going children. Every day, our school buses would leave camp in a convoy, with armed vehicles in the front and back. I was in the last truck, and thankfully, all the vehicles had gone by safely, when the insurgents activated a remote-controlled IED, hidden under a culvert. The blast was so powerful that (I was told later) our heavy 7-ton Shaktiman truck was flung 30 feet off the ground and blown to bits. Some of the jawans in the vehicle were killed instantaneously, a few died in hospital. I was the only survivor, but with my D8 and D9 spinal bones crushed beyond repair, I became paralysed below the waist.”

Dharamveer was first taken to the hospital at Dimapur, from where he was transferred to the Command Hospital. After a couple of weeks he was taken to CH at Lucknow. While his strong constitution and sheer willpower helped, it still took him three years to recover somewhat from the injuries, but it would take another two years at the Spinal Cord Injury Centre at MH Khadki, before he could be shifted to the Paraplegic Rehab Centre on 31 May 2001.

For these five years, his family remained in his hometown at Kurukshetra, where his wife brought up their three small children single-handedly. Dharamveer Singh spent these five years in hospital undergoing rigorous physio-therapy, learning how to activate the other nerves and muscles in his body to help him cope with the loss of movement and sensation below the waist – how to sit up in a chair, how to transfer himself from a chair to a bed or to a toilet seat, how to control his bowel and bladder, and yes, also to reconcile himself to spending the rest of his life on a wheelchair.

He still considers himself lucky to be alive as he says, “All my other colleagues died in the blast!”

He pauses gravely before adding, “I’m glad that the children were safe, that nothing happened to them.” These our brave jawans who put the safety of others before their own, who guard our borders, our children and families even to the extent of giving up their lives. Some, like Dharamveer, miss death by a whisker, but suffer injuries so serious, that they remain confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

Those paralysed below the waist are referred to as paraplegics – both lower limbs paralysed and no bladder and bowel control.


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