While doing training at Pakistan Military Academy in the summer of 2002, I dived into swimming pool with out precisely calculating the depth of water. My head collided with the floor of swimming pool, my neck broke and I got paralyzed on the spot because of fracture dislocation of 4th, 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae . I was rushed to Combined Military Hospital and there for the first time I saw “quadriplegia” scribbled on the clipboard hanging above my head.
Standing besides my bed, looking at my MRI reports my neurosurgeon told me that I may not be able to stand on my feet and move fingers for gripping something for the rest of my life. Being an ambitious young man it was a big shock for me, I saw my military career over. It was very difficult for me to accept this new reality and prayed for a miracle to happen so I can walk again and fulfill my dreams.
To see me, my family arrived at the hospital. Although they tried to remain cheerful in front of me, the pain in their eyes was not easy to hide. I was going to be the first army officer in my family and was like a role model for my younger brothers, cousins and other youth.
Few months later traction weight was fixed to my skull to bring the dislocated vertebrae back to its position thus making me unable to see anywhere else than ceiling for weeks. Because of high fever my surgery for decompressing the spinal cord was delayed several times and at last postponed. Something more fatal than the spinal cord injury according to my doctors were the pressure sores that developed during that phase because of being restricted to one position in bed. But they healed luckily after around 6 months.
After being taught essential techniques of survival with spinal cord injury at Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, I was transferred to my home at Serai Naurang which is located in rural area of KPK province of Pakistan. Here started the most difficult phase of my life. Transformation from one of the fittest on earth to quadriplegic was not easy. I was feeling myself like a bird which was flying high in the sky after leaving nest but suddenly fell down on the ground with legs and wings broken. Before spinal cord injury, I could run one mile under six minutes, nine miles under seventy minutes with ascending slope, helmet on head and rifle on shoulder during training at PMA Kakul. I could climb ropes, do front roles, chin ups, push ups and take dip in freezing water of Abbotabad winter on command of seniors.
But now I was quadriplegic, nothing more than a living corpse, unable to feel or move anything below chest with little movements in arms but no gripping power. Because of majority of my chest muscles being paralyzed I couldn’t cough and breath fully. Besides these secondary complications like Uti, pressure sores,ammonia, spasticity and Autonomic dysreflexia were a permanent threat for me. I was completely dependent on others and required two individuals to transfer me from bed to wheelchair and reverse.
But being a soldier with high spirit I decided not to surrender in the war against adversity and fight with courage, gratitude and resilience. I set few goals in front of me.
First goal was making myself independent. As I couldn’t afford spending millions of rupees to go abroad and get myself rehabilitated from some high class rehabilitation center, I decided to get help from all the knowledge available on the internet about living an active and independent life after spinal cord injury. Being from rural area and with no expert physiotherapist around I started working on making myself strong and independent at home. After months and years of hard work, practice and learning I was able to transfer myself from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to toilet chair and reverse independently. Being a c5c6 complete quadriplegic with no triceps and trunk balance, it was a big achievement for me to do the tasks independently for which I required help of two individuals before. I also made myself independent in doing other daily activities like writing, typing, eating, shaving and dressing etc.
It becomes even more important to get high education and learn other skills if you have physical disability. I couldn’t continue beyond two semesters my Bachelor in Computer Science from Virtual University because of accessibility issues. Then I enrolled myself in University of Science and Technology, did graduation and acquired master’s degree. Through YouTube tutorials I also learned Android apps development and other computer skills.
Because of spinal cord injury my military career was over just at the start. I groomed my younger brothers for the armed forces. One is now serving as Major in Pakistan Army and the other one is serving in Pakistan Navy as Lieutenant. Being an ex soldier it’s very pleasing for me to see my younger brothers in uniform and serving the country.
After spinal cord injury the way your body behaves changes. A lot of knowledge and training is required to live an active and healthy life after spinal cord injury. I realized that majority of my countrymen carrying spinal cord injury are suffering from various complications like pressure sores, uti etc. Most of them are not educated enough to understand English and take advantage of the knowledge available on internet regarding spinal cord injury. As they can understand Urdu language so I wrote the first detailed Urdu book for them on how to live an active, healthy and quality life after spinal cord injury discussing each and every issue in it in detail. It gives me great joy and satisfaction when any quadriplegic or paraplegic tells me that my book has changed his life and he is now more motivated, active, healthy and mobile in life.
I like to share everything that I have learnt from my fifteen years post spinal cord injury experience and research with every one around the globe, that’s why I have created the website spinalinjury.info with my quadriplegic friend Fahad. I keep updating it with fresh articles based on latest research about spinal cord injury and motivational stories of real life heroes suffering from spinal cord injury.
I try staying active, healthy, mobile and purposeful in life . I keep writing articles for my blog and for local newspapers, guide and motivate people suffering from spinal cord injury, work for the welfare, rights and empowerment of persons with disabilities because what l believe is that we should cherish life to the fullest even on wheelchair and be of help, guidance and support to others also.