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Updated: March 14, 2010 13:49 IST

Making paraplegics ‘stand on their feet'

B. Madhu Gopal
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Jonathan Sigworth from the US interacting with a spinal injury patient at a workshop organised by The Ability People in Visakhapatnam on Friday. Photo: K.R. Deepak
Jonathan Sigworth from the US interacting with a spinal injury patient at a workshop organised by The Ability People in Visakhapatnam on Friday. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Most of those who suffer spinal injuries either curse their fate or conclude that life is doomed forever. There are, however, some who see it as an opportunity to serve others.

Jonathan Sigworth belongs to that rare breed of men, who is determined to see a smile on the faces of others even if that means exerting his frail body to the hilt. All of 23, the young man from the US has been touring all over India trying to make paraplegics ‘stand on their feet'. It's no easy task but he instils confidence in them through his demonstrations and examples from his own experience.

One morning in February 2006, Jonathan was going up a hill at Mussorie near Delhi on his bicycle. He slipped and fell to the ground from a height of 70 feet. His first question to the doctor was: ‘Can I ever walk again'? He was depressed when the doctor replied that he would only be able to move his toes. A devout Christian, he said to himself: “If I walk, it would be great, even otherwise it's okay as God must have had other plans for me.”

Back in the US, his friend Andrew demonstrated bed mobility for paraplegics.

“The main difference between India and the US in dealing with paraplegics is their rehabilitation. Unlike in the US, there are hardly any rehabilitation facilities for them in India and I decided to create awareness in this regard.

“These techniques take a long time and they are like gymnastics for spinal injury patients. During my last visit to Visakhapatnam, I trained Dilip Patro (another paraplegic who proved that a positive attitude was important to overcome disability) and he in turn is teaching it to others,” he said.

His mother Virginia Sigworth and his friend and classmate George have accompanied him on four of his six visits to India after the accident.

“You know the meaning of life when living with disability. We have a capability of reminding normal persons of the value of life. I met many wealthy people who only spend on themselves. Only those who suffer can help others,” he says.

A student of English literature, Jonathan took a year off studies to make a video film ‘More than walking' to inspire others.

“Just because we can't walk, we shouldn't lose hope, as there are numerous other possibilities, depending on their level of injury,” says Jonathan.

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