Thursday, 11 February 2010

Shiva and the Wheelchair

Today I'm sitting at home with a stinking cold. It's a public holiday (and SISP is closed) because today's the Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri. It seems that if you make offerings to Lord Shiva today then you gain some benefits in yoga and meditation, or something like that. It's very decent of Shiva to give me a holiday on the busiest day of my week when I'm feeling grotty!
Now this may look like an instrument of torture but it's actually a chair! It's used by the fifteen year old disabled daughter of one of the teachers here. (For reasons of privacy I'm avoiding using personal names.) She had an accident when she was one year old and became totally mentally and physically disabled, having previously been able to talk and toddle. Now she can't move her body voluntarily and barely responds to anything or anyone around her. She fell or banged her head while in the care of another child - a fact only admitted to the parents five years after the incident.

I carry her up SISP's stairs in the morning and notice that she sometimes looks at the shapes or shadows of the roof at a particular point and seems to recognise them. She also recognises her parents' and her sister's faces but that's about it, as far as I can tell.

During the daytime she just lies on a mat on the floor in the busy workshop, looking up at the ceiling, but at least she's with her mother who can feed and clean her. Without SISP, the girl's mother would not have been able to provide for the family (her father has a long-term illness and is unable to work) or her sister would have had to stay at home to look after her.  As it is, the girl's mother works for SISP and receives a salary of Rs.3000 (£40) a month, and the sister has been sponsored to do a BSc at a nursing college.

This chair was made for her to be strapped into so that at least she might see the activity in the workshop and be stimulated in that way, but the back of it was absolutely upright and therefore very uncomfortable for her.  During the week I modified it to make the back slope backwards (you can see where a segment was removed).  Perhaps I've removed a bit too much but it can be padded with pillows. It also needs some side supports so that she doesn't slop sideways - I'm working on that. I've fitted some replacement castors so that it can be moved about more easily but I suspect they'll get tangled up in the threads that are lying around on the floor. But, having said all this, I'm wondering if there's any way of getting a proper wheelchair for her.  Something adjustable, more comfortable, easier to clean and move about, and safer.

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