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Overcoming disabling attitudes: rebuilding your life following injury is just as much about overcoming psychological barriers as physical ones

July 21 2016


Rishi Ram Dhakal was born in the Gorkha district of Nepal. He damaged his spine in an accident in the factory where he worked. This is the story of his incredible journey from devastating injury to a new life.

Rishi fell while lifting heavy machinery. At first he didn’t realize he was injured: “I remember barely feeling any pain at all. However, when I tried to get up, I could not move my legs at all. In that instant, my mind was overcome by fear … I prayed that I would be alright.”

Rishi’s employer took him to hospital and helped to pay for his treatment. He received good care, but was devastated by the outcome of the accident. “Any amount of medical care did not take away the fact that I would never walk again. I couldn’t stop thinking about the rest of my life … I felt I had lost all my chances for a better future.”

Rishi became severely depressed. “I became more pessimistic by the day. On my return home, I had lost all hope and saw no point in living.” Convinced he would soon die, Rishi decided to donate all his organs. He didn’t want to carry on and refused counseling. Everything seemed futile.

RishiAs a last resort, Rishi was finally convinced to travel to the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC), the only one of its kind in Nepal. Providing specialised, holistic care packages for those affected by spinal injury, SIRC offers rehabilitation projects in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka and is a partnership organisation of Livability UK.

At SIRC, Rishi was encouraged to attend therapy sessions and participate in a rehabilitation programme, which slowly started to change his attitude. But it was the community at SIRC – meeting and talking with others who were similarly injured – that affected his outlook the most and made him feel there was hope.

A year after being discharged, SIRC contacted him and offered him a job counselling other people with spinal injuries. Rishi jumped at the chance and, following vocational training in Bangladesh, is now a trained counsellor. He derives enormous satisfaction from his work.

[x_blockquote cite=”Rishi Ram Dhakal” type=”left”]“Working as a counsellor for others like myself, I feel like a concerned parent. I have had my fair share of hardship in life, but I can confidently say that I have no regrets. I am content.”[/x_blockquote]

IMG_2026Coming to terms with spinal injury requires immense personal resilience and emotional strength. But it is not just the individual’s attitude that has to change. The disabling attitudes of others in the wider community to the impact of injury also have to be challenged and overcome.

To this end, Rishi has written his autobiography Second Life (Doshro Jiwan) that describes his long and “perilous journey” to acceptance and a fulfilling life. “I want people to know that what makes people with spinal cord injuries ‘disabled’ isn’t their injury but the stigmatization by those around us. We are constantly treated as fragile beings. People need to know we are capable.” Rishi would like to see governments promoting the employment of people with spinal injuries in all sectors.

Livability International is a specialist team within Livability that provides consultancy to a range of overseas projects and work to create opportunities for better spinal cord injury treatment throughout the world. The Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Nepal was one of the first to respond to the 2015 earthquake, and still require vital funds to provide care and rehabilitation to those affected by this devastating event. Find out more and donate to our Nepal Urgent Care Appeal here.

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