Cerebral palsy( CP) was first identified by a British surgeon William Little who diagnosed that birth asphyxia to be the chief cause of the disorder. However, Sigmund Freud in 1897 said that it isn’t caused due to difficulty at birth. Further, as modern research in this section developed it was realised that cerebral palsy was more of predominant motor impairment (neurological disorder) resulting from damage to the developing brain, which depending on the location, can result in difficulties with movement, spasticity, cognition, communication and behaviour.
India, however, started taking the cases of CP seriously much later, putting them in “Special Child” category. Almost 3.8% i.e. 3/1000 live births in India has been estimated to CP cases. Apart from people working on it and the kin of affected child, not many know about this disorder. Actress Kalki Koechlin’s movie Margarita With A Straw, where she played the character suffering from cerebral palsy, threw light on this topic.
This is the story of a person who is trying hard to help the children diagnosed with cerebral palsy to stick to positivity and thus boosting them to live a normal life. Dr Vinit Kumar, a physiotherapist, is working in Northeast India where the knowledge about this disorder is very limited. I have known him since my graduation days and hes’ the jolliest person I have ever met.
He joined our college in the year 2005 when we had just joined our first year. From the very beginning, we used to see him working with the special cases related to children. He eventually built up his clinic where he started giving both physical and speech therapy to the children who came to him. At present he has set up a centre named, Get Well Soon Physiotherapy Centre at Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh. The most challenging part of treating these cases is that the children who have CP are emotionally much sharper. They tend to isolate themselves from the rest, once they understand that they are not like the others around them. As such it becomes important to understand these children psychology too. Vinit tries to build up the friendship with the child by mimicking their habits in front of them so that the child gains confidence in breaking the ice.
He plays with them and tries to make them comfortable. He develops such strong bond with them that they follow whatever he asks them to. This works as both speech and physical therapy.
Cerebral Palsy is a group of conditions that are characterised by chronic disorders of movement or posture. This condition is often accompanied by seizure, sensory impairment, and cognitive limitations (problems with a person’s thinking, communication, understanding or memory). Physical and speech therapy helps these children to deal with their cognitive limitations to a great extent and helps them to lead a normal life.
In India, the treatments for CP started much later around 1972 when the first special school for children with cerebral palsy was set up. There are only few handfuls of such institutes across the country. In such a scenario, Vinit and his team of physiotherapists are trying to make a difference in the lives of children suffering from CP. Till date, his group has treated more than 200 cases of CP, and many of them are leading a normal life. One such example is Shivam Ayengia. He came to Vinit in 2006. After his motivational speech, psychological, and physical treatment, he showed remarkable improvement. Presently, he is completing his study on Computer Science and Engineering from School of Engineering, Tezpur (Central University). He also has a passion for bodybuilding and has taken part in various bodybuilding competitions in Assam. In one of his articles, he quotes, “Not Impossible, but I am Possible”. In the article, he revealed that besides the support from his family, how physiotherapy had helped him all throughout.
Talking about Vinit, Shivam said, “As I have cerebral palsy, physiotherapy has been an integral part of my life. It changed how I look, how I walk and in fact, it changed my entire life. Since childhood, I have been attending physiotherapy sessions and still do. It is the only medicine for me. When I met Dr Vinit Kumar when I was 9-year-old, and he introduced some new treatments of physiotherapy, which helped and improved me noticeably. He motivated me to do the exercises. Sometimes he used to bring chocolates, momos, pizzas, and gifts for me so that I cooperate with him in the treatments. More than a physiotherapist he was like a family member, I can still remember the late night parties with him, either in his place or mine. We have travelled and visited many places across the country. Sometimes he also used to help me with the studies and even play video games with me. I could share my feelings and problems with him, and he understands and tries to solve them. Now it’s been a long time since I met him last but we are still in touch. However, no matter what happens, he will always be one of my best friends, philosopher, and guide.”
Dr Vinit Kumar and his team are passionate about their work and take care of each case that comes to them with equal compassion. He provides proper counselling to the parents too so that they don’t get irritated at times when their children need special attention. He says, “Since therapy is the best and ultimate medicine for CP cases, during this long run of treatment sometimes the parents get agitated and breakdown when long terms of workouts don’t show any improvement. They need to understand that in the initial stages the response of the children towards treatment is very slow but once they start responding the graph starts rising higher each day. It is during this time the parents should maintain their patience and have full faith in their therapist that things are gonna work out, slowly but will do with time.”
It’s been almost 13 years, and the team has come a long way since then. The team members have changed time to time, but Dr Vinit never gave up. He says, “We have been seeing an increased number of cases coming to us. At first the families of children with cerebral palsy never really thought that their children could lead a normal life but examples like Shivam Thanthan, Pracilla, Janabi, and many others whom I had tried to help, motivated these families to seek treatment for their child.”
Further, he says, “I grow every day with every case of CP that I deal with. The bond developed with them is so pure and so unique. Their first baby step excites me just like a mother. I am happy to help them get a new start in their life, but the main strength lies within them. We just help them to find it.”
He further adds, “Our team is very small, and we need to grow in number so that we can reach to more remote areas to help more children suffering from CP. But, I am happy with the progress in the past 13 years. Till date, we have treated more than 200 children. Even my students who have worked under me have followed the same path and are reaching out to more people in more remote areas of the Northeast to help the ones who need our aid.”
He concluded by saying, “We have a long long way to go before we say goodbye”.
As a narrator of Dr Vinit’s journey, I have deep respect and gratitude for him. I wish more people like him come out to help those in need.