Even after the bus wheel had gone over Medha Saha’s leg and left it crushed and bleeding, she remembers being wide alert, taking out her phone, unlocking it and dialing her mother.
It was 9.30 am on 21 August, 2017 – the first day of engineering college for 18-year-old Medha, who had left home excitedly that morning to start a new phase of her life. But fate took her in an entirely different direction.
Her blue leggings in tatters, her blood splattered everywhere, and her left foot limp leaving her unable to move, Medha recalls in crystal clarity the ensuing pandemonium as people shouted in horror around her.
“I was very strong. I didn’t cry. I was completely aware of everything going on,” says the brave student. She was shortly moved to a hospital by the traffic police, and admitted to the emergency ward.
Her uncle was the first to arrive and, seeing him, Medha sighed in relief that she was no longer alone. Soon her friends arrived, and then her mother and aunt. “Seeing my mom, all my strength just left me,” she says. Her brave face crumpling, she broke down in tears, wailing like a child in her mother’s arms.
The doctors asked her family to move her to another hospital as she required a complicated surgery. On the way, in the ambulance, Medha remembers screaming as her pain intensified. By 7.30 in the evening, she had had X-rays and was rolled in for surgery. Mercifully, the doctors gave her an injection to make her unconscious, so that she had a brief respite from her pain.
When she woke, it was to a devastating new reality. Her left leg had been amputated below the knee.
Medha adjusted bravely to the hospital routine, and by the time she was taken home a week later, she had reluctantly accepted her destiny. Doctors had advised her bed rest for at least four months, but Medha had been a jolly, gregarious, extroverted child all her life, and hated sitting in bed all day.
So, two weeks after her accident, she got up and went to college.
The college provided her with a wheelchair, which she used to get around while she made new friends. “Everyone in the engineering college appeared so intelligent to me! I met people from different parts of the country, who were all very supportive and helped me adapt,” she recalls. Her cousin would pick her up in a car after college, and she learnt to walk with a walker and crutches when at home, building her upper-body strength.
Exactly four months after her accident, Medha got fitted with an Ottobock prosthetic leg. It was expensive but her businessman father and homemaker mother were determined to give her anything she needed to walk unaided. “I started using it 18 hours a day, and got used to it very quickly,” says Medha.
The trainers from Ottobock – who taught her how to use it – also encouraged her to participate in the upcoming TATA Steel Kolkata marathon. “Twenty days after I got my new leg, I participated in the marathon. I didn’t have much practice but I just ran the best I could,” Medha smiles describing the day. She completed the 2km distance marked out for the disabled.
It’s a word she still hasn’t come to terms with, though. “I react very badly when someone calls me disabled. My parents and friends never say it,” she says vehemently. But the very next moment, she softens: “At least I’m still alive. And I can still walk and look normal – no one can tell I have a prosthetic leg.”
These days, she is busy with her first-year examinations. In her spare time, she reads up about her new icons, Paul Martin, an American amputee athlete, Paralympian, speaker, and author; and Arunima Sinha, the world’s first female amputee to climb Mount Everest.
She is also active on Instagram, like any other girl her age. Her heroic journey has just begun.
First published in the June 2018 issue of eShe magazine