Meet The SHEROES - Shalini Saraswathi
Life for Shalini Saraswathi changed after her visit from Cambodia, not because she was expecting or because she was soon to be promoted! But because she was hit by a bacteria - 'Ricketssial' with morts! It started with a mild fever, to multi-organ failures, to coma and then a matter of life and death! With less than 5 % of survival chances, things got tougher.
The gangrene attacked her left arm and the only way to survive was - amputation! "Before my brain and heart accepted it, my nose smelt the rot,” writes Shalini on her blog, Soul Survived Intact. A few months later her right hand just fell off! She says - it literally is the body shedding a part it no longer needs. In my case, it fell into my brother in law's hand. A look of disbelief passed through the room, my mom the only witness. While we did not know what do with the situation, I knew this was a sign – a sign to move on.
Later she decided the only way to move forward was to undergo legs amputation! The day she arrived at the hospital, she was wearing the brightest purple nail polish on her feet. "If my legs were going out, they were going to go out in style" –she writes on her blog!
After all this, she is back and made heads turn as she completed the TCS 10K run in Bangalore.
To the lady, the hero, the inspiration …a big salute! Let's read her story...
Although I hail from the back waters of Kerala, I grew up in Bangalore. I was brought up in a a very traditional homely environment with my father serving in the DRDO and mother a homemaker. Youngest of two, my older sister and I were like best buddies and we have very fond memories of our childhood. After completing my schooling from Mount Carmel College with a graduation in Commerce, I started my first job in 2000, and then it was never looking back. With couple of switches I finally landed at FirstSource solution in 2007.
I’ve always been a very happy go lucky cheerful person. Anyone who has ever known me would describe me as someone with a big smile, and great sense of humor. That’s one of the things that helped me in my difficult situation, I just had a sunny disposition 'to deal with it.' But, the people around you matter a lot and I am lucky to be surrounded with an extremely large supportive group of friends who stood with us physically and emotionally through the situation.
My parents, husband, in laws, my sister – all of us lived with the only thought “tomorrow was going to be better, and we only want to move forward”. It was a combination of everything…a great support system, being immensely loved, lots of positivity, lot of laughter, meeting great bunch of doctors, nurses, random strangers who went out of their way to help us. I think as humans we are given huge amount of strength and endurance and all of us get through our problems eventually, some faster than the other…but we all get there!
I never really planned on running the TCS marathon, that wasn’t the intention at least to begin with. Post amputation in Sep’13 and having started using prosthetics in Feb’14, I realized I just needed to get fitter, as I had just spent way too much time in bed. I met Coach Aiyappa in Apr’14 and started working out. The first year was just a lot of walking and building stamina. It was coach’s idea to do the marathon, and I thought it might be fun to do it. So we seriously started working towards it end of last year. The blades only came in mid April this year. I train for about 1.5 hours Monday through Friday, primarily consisting of a lot of cardio and endurance. I also go for Pilates 2-3 times a week with Anisha Mankikar Naidu. That has helped me work on my core strength.
In my head I had imagined my finish to be one where I’d be smiling ear to ear. Reality was totally different. The run was extremely tiresome due to the high humidity that day. I was severely de-hydrated and had to stop twice to adjust my blades. At the end of race I was just exhausted and I was only craving for a corner to sleep!
I call myself a free bird - Being a free bird for me signifies my sense of freedom from what humans suffer from – bondage and fear. I’ve been through the worst in my life, and I no longer fear anything. I live for the moment, today and make the best of everything I have. My aspirations and happiness is related to smaller things…coffee with a friend, holding hands, laughing with people you care about, watching the sunset, reading a book…
There are just so few empowering images/people that are specially/differently abled, that the first instinct for anyone is to sympathise with your life of doom. But for heaven’s sake please stop staring! I usually give people about 5 mins to get used to my lack of limbs in a public scenario, I understand they are curious. After the first 5 mins, I make eye contact and smile. So my advice is to just smile and treat us normal. And most importantly teach your children that the world is made up of all sorts of people abled, disabled, tall, short, fair, dark…but we’re just people and we accept them for who they are.
My day always starts with the stadium and work out. I work at Firstsource Solutions as Deputy Genral Manager and work in the Business Tranformation team. My days are usually packed with typical meetings, calls, lunches and tea breaks and actual work! I work with a great bunch of people and have a great support mechanism at work. I’m usually back home by 7pm and work if required from home after that.
My mantra is - live in the moment, you never know how your life is going to change tomorrow!