It was 4 p.m. that dreadful afternoon, just a week after my 24th birthday. Through the window of the post-operative ward in the hospital where I lay, I could hear the siren of an ambulance entering the hospital compound with some other accident victim. The team of specialists who stood around me after examining me informed my father and sister of their decision to amputate my right arm the following morning.
A few days earlier, I had met with a motorcycle accident. I was riding my motorcycle over a flyover and I was not wearing a crash helmet. I was overtaking a car when a speeding bus from the opposite direction hit me almost head-on. I was thrown off my bike and landed about 15 metres away. The entire right side of my body was badly injured. I had broken my right side zygomatic bone, my mandible, and my maxilla. A 1.5 cm2 piece of my palate had broken away. There was a gaping hole just below my eye, and my right eye socket was soaked in blood. The patella on my right knee, my right shoulder bone, and the shoulder joint were fractured. As my palate was broken, I had no control over my swallowing and I could feel blood running down my gullet. I was breathing not only through my nose and my mouth but also through my torn cheek and the hole below my right eye. After the broken piece from my palate was reattached and the maxillomandibular fixation (wiring of my mandible and maxilla) was done to immobilise my jaw, I was wheeled to the OT (operation theatre) for a facial plastic surgery that lasted five hours. My shoulder and knee fractures were then attended to and I was shifted to the post-operative ward. As I could not speak due to my wired up jaw, I signalled to my dad and sister that the pain on my shoulder was unbearable and that I feared something more serious than just a fracture. The following morning I knew that I was right. The swelling around my right shoulder had spread up to my back. This was a case of negligence on the part of the doctors. One more day went and sepsis had set in and the pain was so severe that it was almost impossible for me to stay conscious.
My dad and my sister explained to me about the seriousness of the sepsis around my right shoulder which could affect my central nervous system and that the amputation of my right arm was the only way to save my life. I was also passing out frequently due to the excruciating pain, but I desperately tried to stay conscious.
That night, as I lay on my hospital bed, I saw various scenes from my whole life flashing before me. I was too dazed but I tried to mentally prepare myself for the amputation. I continuously felt as if I was falling into some kind of a deep slumber but something told me that maybe that was the feeling of dying, and so I tried hard to stay awake. The heavy loss of blood had made me so weak that I fell asleep.
Around 11p.m., I woke up as I felt a strong and a warm hand stroking my hair. I opened my left eye slightly but there was no one close to me. I saw my Dad sleeping on the couch in the room. I had a strange feeling that I can hardly describe, and I prayed to be shown a miracle that would save my arm. I dozed off again only to be woken up about 10 minutes later by the sound made by the opening of the door. I slowly opened my left eye again and saw that it was one of my friends, Ajit Hegde, who lived in Bangalore. He had completed his 5-year medical course and was to start his one-year internship at the hospital where I was, and exactly on that particular day when my arm was to be amputated! My friend was shocked to see me in such a terrible condition and he went through my medical file that lay on my bedside table.
He asked me if I knew about the planned amputation. I nodded weakly, as even the slightest move of my neck hurt me so badly. He asked me if I wanted to accept the surgeon’s decision, or if I cared to fight back thus risking my life in the process. The first things that came to my mind were the facts that I am the son of a soldier and that I am a born fighter. I saw a twinkle in his eye, and again I had the same feeling of someone stroking my hair gently and I think I tried to smile. I thought to myself, “Was it Krishna, whom I was so sincerely visualising?” I also felt as if someone moved past me leaving behind a warm feeling in my heart. I felt very light in my heart, which was filled with a strange sense of peace. I remembered the days when I was a little child when I used to cling to my beloved father and felt absolutely secure in his strong arms.
My father woke up and explained to my friend about my accident. My friend asked my dad if he would be willing to sign the AMA (Against Medical Advice) document and allow him to take me to another hospital where he would treat me. He told my father that he would go for an I&D (incision and drainage) to remove the almost 800 ml of pus collected around my right shoulder and fight the severe infection with heavy antibiotics. My sister entered the room and was informed by my friend about the new idea to save my arm. I nodded, and I was confident. My friend warned me that the I&D procedure would hurt me a lot and that I would have to bear the pain. I agreed as I did not believe that the pain caused by the incision could be worse than the pain that I was already undergoing.
I can never forget the 72 hours that followed. My body temperature would shoot upwards of 107 degrees Fahrenheit and cause to undergo severe convulsions. The drive to fight back would appear in my mind and using intense breath control, I would visualise a point behind my closed eyes and by concentrating on that one imaginary point, I would derive immense energy and power. In a few minutes, I would sweat so profusely that the mattress I lay on had to be changed because it was drenched with sweat. This had to be done many times. My friend would open the dressing on my shoulder, slowly pull out the gauze that he had inserted the previous day and clean up the wound. He would then squeeze out the pus that had collected after the previous drainage which had almost reached my lower back. This he would follow by inserting new gauze into the 5 cm long wound and leave it there to absorb the pus that would form again during the following six hours. As the pain was unbearable, I had to think of a way to handle it. I visualised the nervous system in my mind and thought of the fact that I could feel the pain because the nerves ‘communicated’ the pain to my brain. So I decided to mentally ‘disconnect’ these nerves from the area around the incision. I knew it was hurting but the pain did not bother me anymore.
After 72 hours following the incision on my right shoulder, regular drainage of the pus, heavy antibiotics and after my high temperatures due to the infection was properly controlled and regulated, I was out of danger. The sepsis was under control. I had to be injected heavy doses of amoxicillin because I could not swallow anything. I could not open my mouth due to the wiring of the maxillomandibular fixation done to immobilise my jaw.
It has been many years now, and I continue to possess a right arm which is also quite muscular like my left arm.
It was that decision that I had to make almost instantaneously – to agree to the amputation or fight it against medical advice. On the one hand, there was the highly experienced surgeon who was certain that the amputation was inevitable to save my life, and on the other, it was this young inexperienced doctor who arrived from nowhere exactly on that particular day, at that particular hour, and suggested such a drastic step to save my arm. Even to this day, I believe that my request to be show the right was considered and my friend was a godsend to me. The Almighty, for sure, has His own ways and most humans do not have an inkling of it.
Destiny seems so real. When we are born, the exact number of years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds that we will be spending alive on this planet, were already calculated and fixed. The only thing is that we are not informed of the exact period of time allotted to us to stay alive.
A few days ago, a young man wrote to me requesting me for advice. He explained to me in detail about his hopeless financial situation and that he was contemplating suicide. He also tried to convince me that suicide was not an act of cowardice. To be honest, I would not say that suicides are cowards. It is absolute nonsense to say that cowards can commit suicide! Committing suicide calls for extreme courage and great mental strength! Of course, there is one thing for sure — the person who commits suicide, is most certainly selfish and silly. In highly stressful situations, the thought of ending one’s life creeps in. But is that a solution is the question. Karma continues and the soul never dies. The soul is born again as ‘someone’ else, and the new negative Karma accumulated due to the act of suicide has to be again balanced.
Suicides are basically of two kinds–the planned one and the impulsive one. Even the impulsive ones are generally the result of constant harbouring of the thought of dying. There must have been in the mind of the person, a strong ‘death drive’ or ‘Todestrieb,’ as Freud called it.
The planned suicide could be because the person in question was almost drowning in debts or maybe he or she feared being caught for some crime committed, and the dishonour that followed it. Those suffering from debt problems usually think that by dying their family would get enough money from the life insurance policy taken. There are others who know that life insurance companies do not pay when the insured commits suicide and hence they plan to either organise and execute an ‘accident’ or set up an attack on themselves and be killed by someone else. The suicide invariably does not think of the possibility of the planned accident being unsuccessful and the goal of dying not being achieved. Now that can be a terrible situation for anyone to be in. It is hard to imagine living in a persistent vegetative state, causing more and more trouble to near and dear ones than earlier, feeling terribly ashamed, and above all, not even being able to reattempt suicide due to the immobility caused by missing limbs.
Everyone carries a death warrant and death is certain. The desire to die due to failures in life is due to extreme EGOISM as one feels that he or she can escape all the humiliation and loss of respect simply by dying. Learning to accept criticism and humiliation would be much easier when the EGO vanishes. The ‘I’ in us is not physical but it is abstract in nature. The body that we possess stays with us only until the death of the body. When a person is dead, the body that is ready to be cremated or buried is not the person who died, but the body of the person who died.
Thanks to my research of over two decades, I have noticed clear patterns in people’s lives. Siblings, who had the same kind of upbringing, went to the same school and had the same teachers are totally different from each other. That is because their souls carry different Karma. We need to remember that our birth is not something caused by us, but it happened. We brought nothing into this world. Nothing belongs to us. The soul descends into a tiny zygote. This zygote grows into a foetus, is born as a baby, lives as a child and an adult, and when the time comes, it dies. Our physical body is the only thing that will stay with us until it dies, and everything else that we ‘possess’ does not belong to us.
My accident that I spoke about was only one of the five serious accidents that I met with, but I still continue to live a healthy life. This is because of two main reasons, firstly because my time to depart hasn’t come yet, and secondly because of the way I value, respect and care for my body, which is the one and only belonging that I actually possess until my soul is ejected out of it.
I wrote back to the young man and convinced him that suicide, of course, is not cowardice, but it is a selfish act that apart from causing extreme sadness and sufferings to one’s near and dear ones, can have an extremely negative effect on one’s process of Karmic evolution.
In English and in certain Romance languages such as Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, etc., the other name for the word gift is present, présent or presente. Therefore, the present is a present. Let us be thankful for it and enjoy it.
Life is a gift – live it.
Jai Shri Krishna.