“When I regained consciousness after 3 days, all I remember is blinding pain. My stomach was cut open, and I had three pipes attached to my body. I had suffered an appendicitis burst, and the poison had spread rapidly. At 12, I was quite unaware of what this meant or why it was happening to me. I was given Taxin, a medication that my body reacted very violently to. It completely burnt me internally and externally, and I was rushed to the burn unit.
Every tiny movement could rip my skin open, and I would have nightmares about it constantly. The thought of my mouth melting off, and blood gushing into my mouth was inescapable. It still makes me shudder to think about. I had no hair, no nails and most of my skin was burnt.
When I was 13, my eyes began to burn uncontrollably, to the point where I couldn’t sleep, or be anywhere near light. A lot of doctors thought I was exaggerating, until one doctor said I was going to go blind. That was the breaking point for my dad, who rushed me to Shankar Netralaya in Chennai. I sat there in front of Dr. Sita Lakshmi, one of the most renowned doctors in the country, and refused to open my eyes. I was being stubborn; I didn’t care if I lost my eyesight, I just wanted the pain to stop. “You don’t have to open your eyes if you don’t want to, just blink twice for me.” That’s all she needed before rushing me into the operating theater.
I have a rare condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, only close to one in a million people have it. There was no cure or treatment at the time. Between the years 2005 and 2009, I underwent 16 eye surgeries. Several failed, and some helped a little. Slowly, I started to see clearer, and I wanted to pay obeisance to the doctor that saved my life. As fate may have it, on the exact day I was supposed to meet with her, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed away. I don’t think I will ever forgive myself for not thanking the woman that gave me my life back.
When I got to college, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away when I was in my second year. I never had the ‘college life’ that most kids get to have. Long drives, movies, parties- it was not something I could experience. All I could do was study and stay home. But life went on, and after all those years of turmoil, God granted me one thing. I became an Assistant Professor at the age of 23.
It was really tough in the beginning, I was greeted with ridicule, insensitive comments and a complete and utter lack of empathy. I felt like I was back in school, where I dealt with the judgement of not just the students, but even the teachers. Now, I see a huge change in my students. They are more aware about mental health, and conscious of how to speak to people without hurting any sentiments.
I think the only way to really survive in life is to move on from things. It’s been a really long and difficult journey for me, but I take each day as it comes. Waking up every morning is still the hardest part. I need to lay in bed until someone hands me my drops, only then can I open my eyes. I still cannot see clearly from my left eye. However, not having fully functional eyes definitely cannot take away my vision for the future. I look forward to what life has in store for me.”
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