Virali Modi: The disability rights activist you should know about
At 15, she became wheelchair-dependent and today, she's a motivational speaker, model, disability rights activist and an influencer, having spoken on TEDx thrice to astounding ovation. She was declared dead thrice, but this determined soul bounced back each time, stronger. Meet Virali Modi, who in a heart-to-heart talk with NewsBytes, shared her inspirational journey and told how she has managed to come this far.
A brief visit to India changed her life forever
On returning to the US, where she used to live with her parents, after a short trip to India in 2006, Virali started developing abnormally high temperature. Multiple hospital visits concluded no diagnosis, and medications only worked to suppress the symptoms. One day, however, things spiralled out of control when Virali had an episode of hallucination, following which she was rushed to emergency care.
The medical attention: Incomplete diagnosis and being declared dead
The then 14-year-old Virali was transferred to the Hershey Medical Center. An MRI result gave non-conclusive result, and a spinal tap was conducted to rule out neurological ailments. However, the situation worsened when she got a seizure during the test, sending her into a respiratory and cardiac arrest. Virali was declared dead for seven minutes, but the doctors eventually got a faint pulse.
Coma for 23 days and regaining conscious on her birthday
A second spinal tap sent Virali into a coma for 23 days, during which she was declared dead, twice. A non-conclusive diagnosis perhaps had weakened the doctors' grit, making them decide that she be taken off the ventilator. But Virali's mother insisted that her daughter to be kept alive till her 15th birthday. Miraculously, she gained her consciousness on the same day.
Coming back to life and being paralyzed neck down
Virali still doesn't have a conclusive reason behind her medical condition. But in the past 15 years, she had to face a lot of challenges as a result of her disease, the most visible of them being paralysis. Virali was initially paralyzed neck-down, but her sheer will and lots of therapy sessions enabled her to regain the mobility in her upper body with time.
Being depressed and the attitudinal shift from the society
Being differently-abled is difficult not because of the difference in ability, but because of society's attitudinal shift, Virali highlights. She slipped into depression because of the isolation she faced from her relatives, friends and society at large. However, with the unending support from her mother, a sherni in her words, she soon picked herself up. Since then, there has been no looking back.
She shifted to India for good in 2008
Virali shifted to India with her mother in 2008 for undergoing Ayurvedic treatment, and she realized that the infrastructure is not friendly for people with disabilities. When the government passed the Disability Rights Act in 2016, she was relieved, but was again left surprised at how accessibility at several places was restricted to just a few sections of the differently-abled.
For instance, the Tejas Express, launched in 2017, was touted as being disabled-friendly. However, Virali says that disability is an "umbrella term," which was used in the wrong context here, because the train catered only to the visual and hearing impaired, and not to those who had a locomotive disability. This irked her and she posted an open letter on social media, which went viral.
#MyTrainToo - Implementing portable ramps at railway stations
Though Virali's letter went viral and she followed it up by filing complaints addressed to the PMO and Railway Ministry, she didn't receive any response from either of them. The gritty woman then filed a petition on Change.org - #MyTrainToo, which caught the eye of a railway official from Kerala. They worked together to implement portable ramps at nine railway stations across India.
Recognized by Delhi Commission for women; has met Barack Obama
Virali's efforts were recognized by the Delhi Commission For Women, and she was awarded the Women's Achiever Award in 2017. She was also selected as one of the 100 influential women by BBC that same year. Virali then started her journey as a motivational speaker. A three-time TEDx speaker, she has attended various conferences and met luminaries like former US President Barack Obama.
Her biggest achievement? Taking her mother to Thailand, she quips
Despite her huge list of achievements, Virali feels that nothing comes close to fulfilling her mother's wish of visiting Thailand. She also realizes the impact of being a role model and feels that inspiring people through her words is another big achievement of hers. To tell a story and make an impact on lives is not an easy feat, but Virali aces that. More power to you, lady!