Indian woman who lost her hands, legs trains to be a marathon runner
An Indian woman who lost both legs, and hands, to a rare bacterial infection has defied all odds to become an audacious blade runner.
An engineer by profession, Shalini Saraswathi, 37, from Bengaluru in south India, overcame the grievous condition to which she lost both her legs and each of her hands.
In an inspiring show of grit, the quadruple amputee took part in an open 10k run recently – just three years after fighting with the rare disease.
In 2013, pregnant with her first child and returning from her fourth marriage anniversary celebration in Cambodia, Shalini developed a mild fever.
But the mild fever was diagnosed to be an acute case of rickettsial with morts – a rare bacterial infection.
Shalini’s life turned upside down over the next few months. She remained in the ICU of a local hospital, where she lost her baby – something that Shalini considers as the biggest loss of her life.
As she battled her condition further, gangrene attacked her left arm and it seemed almost certain that it would have to be amputated.
Her left hand was amputated and a few months later her right hand dropped off on its own. But her ordeal was far from over. Her legs fell prey to gangrene next. From deep within her, Shalini drew on courage that only a true fighter could access.
Shalini said: “On the day my legs had to be amputated, I wore a bright shade of nail polish as I went to the hospital. If my legs were going, they were going to go out in style!”
She tried to get back on her feet with the help of prosthetic legs. After giving it her all, Shalini walked for the first time in December 2014.
But the gritty woman wanted to prove that she could do more than what was expected of her.
“I had a feeling that I would be rejected by the society. And I had so much to prove to myself also. So I decided to train to become a runner,” she said.
Soon after, Shalini began training under coach BP Aiyappa at a local sports facility. She began practicing for 90 minutes every morning, walking and doing related workouts.
After a two-year struggle, she began to run half marathons.
She said: “I was very clear about one thing – I wanted to get my life back in order. So, when I got my prosthetics, I wanted to walk.
“Then began encounters with a series of trainers, none of whom knew what to do till I met Aiyappa.
“In the beginning, I had no stamina or balance whatsoever. It took a whole lot of work for me to feel like my prosthetics were an extension of my own body.”
Running the 10 kilometre marathon was coach Aiyappa’s idea. He had major plans for her even while Shalini couldn’t walk properly.
Shalini said: “We talked about running for six months and I had to make a whole lot of sacrifices, but I’m glad I could do it. For me, it was about taking control of my body. I wanted to do this because I had smelled my body rot when I was sick.”
Shalini’s husband Prashanth Chowdappa supported her throughout her medical condition and helped her being hopeful about life.
He said: “The doctors used to remove the dead cells to clean without any anesthetic and she would cry in pain. That’s when they would realise these were living cells.
“Shalini came back from the jaws of death and she is running on blades. I am so proud of her.”
Now when Shalini’s life is back on track with her new found love for running marathons. She just wants to run and continue running till she is fit enough to do it.
“I feel great while I run. It gives me motivation. I want go bigger and participate in marathons across the world,” she said.
“But for now, it is all about standing up on my own legs and take one step at a time.”