A road crash survivor himself, Dilip Patro is now on a mission to give a new lease of life to people with spinal cord injuries

Feb. 18, 2021, 6:17 p.m.

By:Reshma Jain

The month-long campaign ‘National Road Safety Month’ with the theme ‘Sadak Suraksha-Jeevan Raksha’ to spread awareness about the importance of road safety concluded on February 17. To mark this campaign, Socio Story brings to you the story of Dilip Patro who was left paralyzed after a near-fatal road crash in the year 1997. After a few months, he founded a non-profit, non-government and disabled people’s organization in Visakhapatnam.

Recalling those excruciating days, Patro said, “A gruesome crash by a two-wheeler driven by a drunken driver hit and ran away, left me alone lying on the road without giving any first aid in the golden hour. I was badly injured; I was left stranded without any help for 4 dark hours. By-standers were mute spectators and at early dawn, I was rescued by the first responder. Since I was left unattended for a long time, it led to spinal cord injuries.”

After gradual recovery, Patro conceptualized the idea of forming an Indian-based International road safety development organization and there began the journey of The Ability People (TAP) which was started by a group of ‘Crash Survivors’. The NGO focuses on promoting 3 R’s i.e., Road safety, Right to emergency care and Rehabilitation of crash victims.

Inadequate emergency and trauma care along with lack of trauma audits and systems contribute to a large number of deaths and disabilities. TAP focuses on training, connecting, mobilizing common citizens and police personnel to become first-responders to road crash victims and provide basic life-saving care to victims in a timely manner. “We provide free, affordable/heavily subsidized treatment and active rehabilitation for the needy for both community and institutional-based purposes for PwDs, CwSN and other disabling conditions. The focus is on persons with disabilities who are economically challenged and do not have proper access to such facilities. The active rehabilitation services are for those persons affected with spinal cord injuries who have completed their medical management,” shared 50-year-old Patro.

TAP has developed a revolutionary concept for providing various services in Visakhapatnam, recognized and supported by various organizations from all over the world. Realizing the tremendous scope for developing a comprehensive center that could cater to the basic rehabilitation needs of the PwD’s in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, their first initiative was the Ability Rehabilitation Center (ARC). ARC is a post-hospital rehabilitation center which provides services for active rehabilitation for persons with spinal cord injuries along with other forms of disabling conditions like amputees, post-polio residual paralysis (PPRP), muscular dystrophy, children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, adults with strokes and other neurological disorders.

In 2020, the organization launched its community-based rehabilitation (CBR) program in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh to respond to the outstanding demand for the need of rehab aids and therapy services. “During our CBR programs, we realized skill development and it’s link with economic independent programs, seed funding for entrepreneurship, community building, networking and independent living program needs. We are in the process of connecting eligible PwDs to other local NGOs to initiate education and livelihood opportunity programs in tribal and remote areas. It aims to promote inclusive development for persons with disabilities,” said Patro by adding that continuous discrimination denies them equal access to education, employment, healthcare and other opportunities.

Speaking on the future plans, Patro said, “A few of them include setting up the Ability Regional Rehabilitation and Resource Centre (ARRRC) in Visakhapatnam, establishing a model Rehab Center for people with spinal cord injuries and crash victims in ARRC, to initiate research and development in the rehabilitation sector to support and promote various concepts and products related to Assistive Technology.”

“Mobile clinics and workshops for remote service provisions to address the need for children and people with various disabling conditions is also a part of the plan. The mobile clinic could be equipped with necessary set up to provide doorstep services. The system could reach the people who cannot reach us,” said Patro by concluding that the mission is to enable PwDs to participate in society as equals.

Patro said that when he sees amputee’s standing independently for the first time on both legs, it gives him satisfaction. Spinal cord injury affects the nerves, movement, sensation, bladder, bowel, bones, respiration, skin, fertility and sometimes causes psychological effect. Secondary complications like bedsores, pressure sores and urinary tract infection can be extremely financially and energy sapping for the family. Although it is challenging to carry on with daily chores, we ensure that such people find ability in disability, said Patro.

Road accidents are the major cause for Spinal cord injury and the figures are mounting each year. Around 1.2 lakh people die and 12 lakhs get seriously injured in India. The average age of a spinal cord injured person is 31 years. India has 1.5 million people with spinal cord injury with approximately 20,000 people added each year.


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