Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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27-12-2005 : Orissa
Technology can remove the pain

I am indeed delighted to visit the Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research (NIRTAR) in Cuttack and interact with you all. I realize that this complex has come out of the pioneering work of Dr. Balu Sankaran. My greetings to the team who have worked consistently for the last three decades to realize this complex and to provide the benefits of healthcare to patients with orthopedic disabilities, hearing disabilities, congenital deformities and leprosy. I am happy that the institute has built up infrastructure for carrying out the rehabilitation surgeries, physiotherapy and occupational therapy units, workshop for fabricating orthotic and prosthetic aids and visual and psychological counselling. I would like to discuss on the topic "Technology can remove the pain".



Rehabilitation process should aim at enabling persons to reach and maintain their optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological and social functional level. It has to include measures to provide and restore functions to compensate for the loss or absence of a function. It should include from more basic and general rehabilitation to goal-oriented activities, for instance vocational rehabilitation.

Training is an important educational mechanism to remove the disabilities. We have recently come across one interview with a wrestler who is knee-less and hand-less. The training from childhood, will power to be, on his own and above all the willingness of benefactors with love and compassion to go all out to help such special persons demonstrates that the special abilities can be built.

Dr Stephen Hawking is one of the most accomplished physicists of our time. This great scholar was affected by motor neuron disease which deteriorated so much that it threatened his research career. His speech became slurry and many people predicted that he will not live to complete his Ph D. His determination and the help that he received from modern technology made sure that he not only lived to complete his Ph.D but also made the most enviable contribution to Physics, the string theory. He is a great living example in radiating the confidence to win in the midst of multiple physical disabilities.


Blossoming of spirit of service

I have experienced that the composite product technologies helped the disabled to have light weight artificial limbs or FROs (Floor Reaction Orthosis) ? Calipers at an affordable cost and at one tenth weight in composite material. After the development of FRO, many camps have been conducted for fitting FRO?s including Chandipur, Balasore district. I could see the happiness of the recipients in these camps because of the lightness of the FRO. Now I would like to narrate my experience of visiting a FRO Camp at Belgaum for providing rehabilitation to polio affected and special children.

A seven year old boy Master Bhimappa, son of a labourer belonging to Belgaum District, Karnataka studying in primary school had lost both his lower limbs in a road accident. He wrote me a letter seeking help for rehabilitation. Then three of my friends Dr. A.S. Pillai, Dr. L. Narendranath, Shri. Mayank Diwedi, went into action.

Dr. Narendranath, Orthopedic Surgeon, NIMS, Hyderabad examined the boy ? diagnosed and prescribed bilateral above knee prosthesis for him. Sthree Sakthi of Lions club of Belgaum came all out to help the boy by taking him to Hyderabad and treatment commenced on fitment and gait training. With this prosthesis fitment, Master Bhimappa walked confidently and was able to negotiate distances comfortably. Based on this experience Dr. Vijayalakshmi, Sthree Sakthi of Lions Club sought help for providing light weight calipers to many polio affected children of Belgaum region. Our team of doctors and engineers when into action. Lions club organized camps to screen the children for fitment trial and over six hundred children were fitted with FROs on 15th October 2004. After this event a big camp was conducted in Loni on 15th October 2005 where thousand children have been rehabilitated. This shows the nobility of heart of all the participants in this mission. I would suggest the members of Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research to conduct such FROs camps in the rural areas of Orissa.

I am confident that the NGOs and Government functionaries in other areas of the country can follow this model for providing relief and rehabilitation to the differently abled children and bring smiles in their faces.


My Experience in Tanzania

I visited Tanzania and South Africa during September 2004. My programme included a visit to Uhuru Primary School in Dar-Es-Salaam, capital of Tanzania where an inclusive training is provided to physically challenged children along with other students. Uhuru Primary School set up in 1921 also admits children with multiple disabilities along with other children. This I consider a great social cause.

Prior to our visit to Tanzania, Smt Meira Kumar, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment had sent a team of doctors and experts with appropriate systems like wheel chairs, hearing aids, prosthetic kits, headphones and Braille slates to Dar-Es-Salaam. Nearly 500 Tanzanian children were provided the assistive devices like hearing aid, tricycles, folding canes and Braille slates. Our team also trained them for using these devices in their day-to-day activities.

When I reached the school on 13th September 2004, it was a moving sight to see physically and visually challenged children trying to keep in tune with their school mates. A band was at hand playing rhythmic tunes on which the children were singing and dancing to celebrate the arrival of the ability. I realize whether India or anywhere, the abilities provided in an environment of happiness and thankfulness engulfed. Now I would like to discuss about hearing impairment.


Cochlear Implant

Regarding the profound hearing disability, treatment is undertaken only in very few medical institutions since it needs a special device called cochlear implant. When the child doesn?t have the hearing capacity it leads to dumbness. Cochlear implant coupled with computer aided training helps the deaf and dumb individuals to regain near normal hearing/speaking capabilities. Basically it is bypassing the damaged inner ear portion by replacing its functions with an electronic system having external mike, speech processing circuit, transmitter and a receiver. The receiver is implanted below the ear. The receiver has an electrode, which will be inserted into the cochlear portion of the ear. Speech processor processes the input audio signals and converts them into electrical signals in various channels. The transmitter transmits these signals to the implant's multi-channel electrode, which terminates in various points of the cochlear.

The latest cochlear implant technology, contour advance, recently introduced in India, is specifically designed to protect the small and delicate cochlea structures during surgery. This helps to preserve any residual hearing. Its curved shape also provides more focused stimulation of the hearing nerve for better quality outcomes. The further research in cochlear implant must lead to design and production of cochlear implants which will need minimum invasive procedures for fitment. There are certain groups working in different parts of the country on treatment for hearing impairment using cochlear implant and also the development of cost effective cochlear implant in the country. I would suggest Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research to become a partner in this programme.



Some time back, the National Institute for Mentally Handicapped, Hyderabad, had conducted a sports meet for all the physically & mentally handicapped children at National Stadium Hyderabad. In one race.., Nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100 mtr race. At the starting signal, they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, others except one little boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times, and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down and looked back. Then they all turned around and went back......every one of them. One girl with Down's syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, "This will make it better" Then all nine linked their arms together and walked together and finally reached the destination. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes. People who were there are still telling the story. Why? Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means slowing down and changing our course. I would say that, you do not have to slow down. Rather by helping difficult areas, the feed back will make you go faster. If you pass this on, we may be able to change our hearts as well as someone else's. "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle".

My best wishes to Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research for success in their mission of providing rehabilitation care to special people particularly in the rural areas. May God bless you.




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