Gita was a very vivacious and lively girl, full of zest for life. She was  basically an outgoing girl, almost a tomboy and did attend college although never very keen on academics, preferring to spend most of her time outdoors. She excelled in sports and was an excellent horse-rider. She loved horses and was seen daily at the Amateur Riders' Club, spending hours with the horses. At the young age of twenty two, she had won several trophies.

One fine morning, around 11 a.m., accompanied by friends, she went to the United Services Club at the other end of Bombay island. It was a lovely morning in winter, the leaves of the palm trees waved gently with the breeze. The sun was not too hot and the water of the swimming pool was inviting. She decided to get into the pool. She rushed to the cloak room, donned her swim suit and before anyone could warn her she dived.

She had failed to notice that there wasn't enough water in the pool. She had dived head down. She hit her head on the cement floor and broke her neck. She was pulled out of the swimming pool by her shocked friends in an unconscious condition and given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. A little later she opened her eyes and started breathing. But the damage had been done. She had become a quadriplegic—all her four limbs had become totally paralysed. An ambulance rushed her to the Breach Candy Hospital where an X-ray of the cervical spine was taken and she was put on cervical traction. The X-ray revealed a fracture dislocation of C 6 (lower) cervical vertebra. Immediately tongs were applied to the skull and traction was commenced. With increasing weights, dislocation was relieved over the next few hours; maintenance traction was continued thereafter.

Intensive physiotherapy was instituted straightaway and so was medication with steroids. An indwelling urinary catheter was inserted as she had lost not only the power, but also sensations below the neck. Over the next few days, some recovery of power occurred at the level of the shoulder, she was able to lift her arms and bend them at the elbow but there was no grip or any finger movements of either side.

Every day, we would attempt to raise her morale with words of encouragement but inspite of all our efforts we could notice no further recovery. Fortunately she did not develop any bedsores, nor did she get any urinary infection during this trying period. At the end of six weeks, skull traction was removed and a felt cervical collar was provided. Thereafter, gradual elevation was carried out encouraging her to sit with the support of a Fowler’s bed, Bly then, she had developed an autonomous bladder and the catheter was removed. As the process of sitting was commenced, she became less depressed. She started having morning tea, breakfast and dinner, sitting with the side table across the bed.  In this state, she took discharge from the hospital and went home,

She was indeed glad to be back home with her parents and her elder sister who spent all her spare time with her. Her sister was a source of  a source inspirations and strength to Gita. Slowly but surely she began to get back to her old, cheerful self. At this juncture, she was put on intensive physi0 therapy and rehabilitation at the All India Institute of Physical Medicine at Haji Ali. Everyone admired her courage and encouraged her. She came to a point when she could sit practically without any support and stay in that position for some time. She could use her arms better, she had become stronger at the shoulders and she would use them to lower herself. The fingers, however, did not show further improvements. Aware of her love for horses, her parents would take her to the Amateur Riders' Club now and then. As a rehabilitation measure, she was encouraged to spend as much time as she could with horses. The day came when she was helped on to the back of a horse and have a ride. That was sensational. It lit up her life. One could see the twinkle of mischief in her eyes. She remained cheerful most of the time.

Not long after, she started teaching amateurs how to ride, attending the Club on a regular basis. This indeed was a great achievement and filled her with a sense of fulfilment. Whilst Gita was busy having intensive physiotherapy, a young cadet from the navy came in touch with her at the Institute. He could not believe that a girl so paralysed could still be cheerful and enthusiastic about her rehabilitation. He began by admiring her and then started spending every evening with her at her home. Both Gita and her parents welcomed him. Gradually, as the bonds of friendship deepened, he proposed to Gita knowing fully well that she would be a paraplegic for the rest of her life. They got married and both continued stay with Gita's parents. Gita was now a fully transformed girl, full of joy and happiness.

Within a year of the marriage Gita was in the family way. Because of her condition of quadriplegia, a normal delivery was impossible--nor was a conventional caesarean with anaesthesia necessary. When the foetus was full term, a caesarean was performed without anaesthesia, with Gita remaining fully conscious throughout but feeling no pain. Gita had a baby boy who like any other child was breast-fed by his mother. Gita's parents  and husband looked after him. It was a joy for her to see him grow. He would crawl all over her and play with her. Her life was now totally absorbed in looking after the boy and, at such times as she was free, teaching at Amateur Riders' Club. Her parents and her sister who were so worried and concerned about her could now be at ease and lead their own lives.

The child remained the centre of attraction for the whole family. The grandparents doted on him. Every new acquisition of the child was the topic of conversation for days. Both Gita and her husband would spend hours on end with the growing baby. There was happiness all around and Gita was thinking in terms of a second baby. However, one day, Gita developed high fever. It was diagnosed as due to urinary infection. She was put on antibiotics but the fever remained unabated. It appeared that her kidneys were damaged due to backpressure from retention of urine she may have developed earlier. One could notice Gita becoming weaker and weaker. She could not overcome the infection and finally succumbed, leaving behind her 3-year old son. A life of indomitable courage had finally ended leaving behind glorious memories of a great struggle to lead a near normal life inspite of marked handicap.

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar.