THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘’Ikkaa...Ikkaa...,’’ called out young Riya, standing on tip-toe beside the wheelchair. On it rested the thin figure of her cousin, his chest and thighs strapped to the seat. The boy’s mouth is covered with a surgical mask. He blinks his eyes and once in a long while, twitches his head to one side.
‘’It’s a big improvement from what he used to be a year ago,’’ said his father Shajahan. The youngster, Irfan, is familiar to Kerala as the survivor of the Karikkakom school van tragedy that claimed the lives of six of his schoolmates and their ayah.
The van had overturned into the Parvathy Puthanar at Karikkakom, and though Irfan was saved, infection from the polluted canal water had left him paralysed and tied to the wheelchair. Hopefully, not for life.
As the state observes the first anniversary of the mishap this February 17, Irfan’s family is hopeful. Acupressure sessions by therapist Sam John M, a teacher at the Government Deaf School, Jagathy, since last December has given them the proverbial straw to clutch upon.
Immediately after the accident, Irfan was rushed to a private hospital in the city, where, his parents say, he was given the best of treatment.
‘’Acupressure has done a lot of good. Physiotherapy also is done regularly. We had taken Irfan to Vellore (Christian Medical College) where he spent three months. The hospital has asked us to bring him back after six months,’’ Shajahan said.
‘’Now his body has loosened up a bit. Earlier, it used to be so stiff. He is able to move his eyeballs to all four sides now. Earlier, he did it only to one side. He is also responsive to touch, and cries, for instance, when he is bitten by a mosquito,’’ says Sam.
On Tuesday evening, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s wife Mariamma Oommen, who is a votary of acupressure methods, called at Irfan’s Karikkakom home, bearing gifts for the boy and offering moral support to his parents.
Irfan’s mother Sajini handed the guest a photograph kept atop the refrigerator. It showed a smart-looking boy with a naughty smile on his face.
‘’It was taken when he was just over four years old, and only a month before the accident,’’ the mother said.
The boy strapped to the wheelchair is a pale shadow of his likeness in the one-year-old photograph, but today the family is hopeful that one day soon, their boy would be back on his feet and scampering around his first floor home.