BENGALURU: Shalini Saraswathi cherishes her life too much now. “When you have come too close to losing your life, you realise not to take things for granted,” says the 40-year-old para-athlete.
The blade runner, a quadruple amputee, won the bronze medal at the national-level parathletics held last year, and is now aiming for the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints in 2020. She will also be inaugurating Mercy Drops, a community resource centre that will promote the culture of sharing, on June 7.
“I never considered myself to be an athlete at all,” says Saraswathi, who was diagnosed with acute Rickettsial - a rare bacterial infection - in 2012.
“After two years of bed rest and trying to figure out how to go about my life, I met coach B P Aiyappa, who then trained me. During the first year of getting my life back on track in 2014, I would walk around Kanteerava Stadium to get a grip on my prosthetics. By the second year, I had got my blades and started running for 90 minutes daily,” recalls Shalini, who also participated in TCS 10K marathon.
She now practises every morning, before heading off to work at a BPO.
Shalini’s struggles began after she travelled to Cambodia with her husband on her fourth wedding anniversary in 2012. She came down with a mild fever, which was wrongly diagnosed as dengue at the time.
The Bengaluru resident, who originally belongs to Kollam district in Kerala, finally got the right diagnosis and her treatment began, but she was forced to undergo amputation.
During the course of treatment, Shalini also lost her baby, which affected her physically and mentally. As gangrene attacked her, she suffered multiple organ failures.
“Initially I hated myself for the person I had become. It was a journey to be okay with who I am,” recounts Shalini.
Her husband, family and friends have been her support throughout her journey.
Explaining that the challenge for her earlier was to accept the person she had become, she adds that she still struggles with wearing her prosthetics every day, or coming to terms with the fact she cannot drive a car anymore.
“To overcome it, I sometimes write dark poetry and verbalise what I am going through,” she says. “I often cry. Mourning is the best way to overcome your losses.”