Wednesday, December 23, 2009


'so is the hospital food as bad as people say?' asked my friend innocently. i felt my heart stop for half a second. i was speechless (ok even if i wanted to say something, i couldnt. but i didnt know whether to look up for yes or down for no). i realized i hadnt eaten or drank anything for weeks! how was i stilll alive? and then i remembered , my PEG tube. i hated the idea that i had one, but right now, it was keeping me alive. it was basically a tube connected from my stomach to the outside world through which i would get my medications, water, and these milkshake like drinks that served as my meals. a few weeks later when i could open my mouth a little, i started practicing swallowing, which sounds easy, but it was pretty hard for me. my speech therapist, emily, started me with lemon swabs. they just tasted like lemon and stimulated random swallows. and then we tried lollipops! strawberry-flavored, simply delicious. then, to increase my swallowing coordination and swallowing strength, i started getting electrical stimulation on my throat muscles. uncomfortable? definitely. but i got used to it because i had to do it everyday for an hour for 14 days. but with the e-stim on, i could actually try swallowing liquids! so we moved onto big things - diet coke! we had to add this starch like powder to thicken it a bit which ruined the taste a bit, but it was still DIET COKE! (because thick liquids are easier to swallow than thin liquids, like water). i remember that first sip that teased my palate and glazed my throat, was the first drop of liquid to tickle my throat in weeks. it was unreal. after i completed the 14 days, it was time for my 'swallow study' which was basically a test to see whether i could swallow different things without 'aspirating' - letting any food/liquid go down the wrong way. i didnt realize how big a deal it was, but i will probably remember that day, january 20, forever. first, i tried swallowing 'honey thick' liquids, and repeatedly, i swallowed it fine! then we tried 'nectar thick' liquids, and to everyones surprise, i swallowed that fine too! we got carried away and decided to try 'thin liquids', but i completely aspirated that. finally, we tried a solid (a puree FOOD!), and i handled that fine too!! so i had been approved for 'nectar thick' liquids and puree solids! basically i could eat and drink again!! my nurse said, 'wow, that made my day!', then my doctor said, 'that made my month!', and then emily excitedly yelled, 'that made my career!!!' i was ecstatic. but i didnt realize the significance of what just happened until dinnertime that night - i actually received a meal tray! my doctor said if i could finish 75% of my meal, i wouldnt have to have my tube feed. i decided that day would be the LAST day i would ever have a tube feed. though the trays were massive, i had absolutely no appetite, i could only handle tiny bites so each meal would take an hour, eating was exhausting, and i was vegetarian on a puree foods diet (EWWW!), i wanted to do everything in my power to not be fed through a tube again. though my tastes arent normal yet (like i dont have a taste for alcohol yet), i was one step closer to singing with biggie, 'birthdays were the worst days, now we sip champagne when we thirstay!'

Thursday, December 17, 2009

a long december (continued)

this past weekeend, i had the most incredible birthday possible. i had about 50 wonderful friends, from all the important parts of my life - my childhood, highschool, governors school, duke, and medical school,from all across the country, in my house for a night of laughter and memories. i was laughing til 5 in the morning, and it felt amazing. i kept looking around and thinking to myself, 'wow, im so lucky.' isnt it ironic?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

a long december

so let me pause from my story because i wanted to quickly bring up something thats been on my mind and maybe some of yours. so its been a year, actually exactly a year sunday. never did i ever imagine that after a whole year, i would still be in a wheelchair, that i would still be barely moving, and that i would still be barely talking. but never did i ever imagine that within just a year, i wasnt supposed to be alive. so i have MUCH to be thankful for, but much holding me back from being happy with the life ive been lucky enough to lead. the fact that i even can celebrate another birthday is truly a blessing, but the thought of celebrating another birthday 'handicapped' is nauseating...and another christmas... and another new years. this will be a long month, many days to celebrate, but not many reasons that put me in a celebration mood. so you might be wondering, has this all been worth it? if you asked me last week, i wouldve said hell no. 365 days of hell for what? more hell? but if you asked me that today, i would say hell yes. i have done some thinking this week, and i realized that i still have some rare but amazing moments that make this all worth it. like when my brother said something outrageous that made me laugh until my sides hurt, or when setu sang for us my favorite song and her beautiful voice gave me chills, or when the love of my life fell asleep for hours in my lap as we relaxed through a random monday afternoon. in those moments, i was truly and purely happy. i cant remember all the times i told myself to hold onto these moments as they pass. granted, before my injury, those moments were every moment, and now they are more rare but they are still there. maybe this month and this year will have more of those moments. maybe this year will be better than the last.... now the question is, 525,600 minutes, 8,760 hours, 365 days, or 1 year from now, where will i be?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

King of Wishful Thinking

'You are going to be fine!' this is what i heard from all my friends and family. u would think these words of positivity would provide me some comfort or relief, but no, they made me cry more. i didnt understand why. i was so confused for the longest time until a few weeks ago when a friend was explaining to me a similar situation. i cried because i SO BADLY wanted those words to be true. i cried because i SO BADLY didnt want these words to be too good to be true. i cried because i SO BADLY wanted to believe those words. but i couldnt. why couldnt I let myself be happy and be hopeful and just believe? any happiness and any possible hope had been stripped away from me. i was vulnerable and scared which allowed my mind to be tormented by all the negative, awful things i heard from medical professionals, which made the positive, hopeful things i heard from my family and friends seemed like mere wishful thinking. in the ICU, i overheard a nurse say, 'her parents think she is miraculously turn around, but i dont see that happening,' which destroyed the little hope i had, and another nurse said, 'why on earth was she at urgent care? if i was her, i would have gone to the ER!' which made me feel stupid and gave me the false idea that this could have been prevented had i been smarter. another doctor, who, i found out later, knew virtually nothing about my case, said that my stroke made me a quadripelegic and only my voice would return. she went on to educate me on the grieving process, and was probably in stage two: DENIAL. her words hurt, more than any other, and i cried, oh i cried. yes i trusted my family and friends more than these strangers, but arent medical professionals supposed to say things founded in fact and experience? there was a constant battle in my mind, hope versus hopelessness, optimism versus pessimism, wishful thinking versus wishless thinking. i could hear that nurse practitioner words on repeat, 'shes never going to walk again,' but then on the other side of that, i kept hearing, 'dont let the haters stop you from doing yo' thang!' ( you better know where thats from!) i didnt know what to believe. we had a meeting with my family, my doctors, and my therapists, so I thought I would finally get answers. The truth was, no one knew what was going to happen, so my doctors and therapists justifably didn't say anything about it. I began to cry because I was so scared and so confused. My cries were like howls that echoed across the room, so everyone must have felt how scared I was. So then my resident stood up, walked over to me, kneeled down, grabbed my hand and said, "We are just waiting for all the connections to be made, it all gets better from here."This was the first piece of positivity from anyone in the medical profession. I was so touched by her words because I felt like my two worlds that were battling each other were finally merging together. She gave me the strength to hope, she gave me a reason to believe, she gave me a chance to be free from all the negativity, she gave me a reminder that I am and always will be the optimistic, hopeful king of wishful thinking.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

hanging by a moment

life is just a long string of moments, good moments,bad moments, meaningless moments, and meaningful moments. some moments define us, whether we like it or not. a moment on november 29th when i had a stroke defined me, and now another moment would come to define me... so dr. m would come everyday or every other day to check my general status and to see if any of my main muscle groups had returned. he would ask me to do something little and then would wait and watch or feel for any muscle movement or contractions. they would go something like this: ' squeeze my hands' and then he would wait... and nothing, 'wiggle your toes' and then he would wait... and nothing, 'raise your shoulders' and then he would wait... and nothing. they were such little motions but i couldnt do any of them, not even a little. it must have been hard for him to do because it was disappointing everyday. it must have been awful to watch too because it highlighted how hopeless i was and that i couldnt do ANYTHING. i remember the first time someone watched. i remember the first time someone watched. anand and baldeep were in my ICU room saying their goodbyes before visiting hours ended for the day. dr. m came in to check on my status. anand and baldeep sat down while dr. m checked my muscles. again, nothing. after dr. m left, anand and baldeep said their goodbyes and left too so i was alone. a few minutes later, my nurse came in and i overheard her talking to someone. she said, 'i feel really bad for those boys. they arent handling this well. i saw tears in both their eyes when they left this room.' i cried myself to sleep that night. those words burned me, and burns never really go away. anand tand baldeep were the last two people in the world i ever wanted to hurt or disappoint. at that moment, i realized something needed to change. i couldnt hurt them anymore so something had to change, it just had to. but then nothing changed. everyday was disappointing. everyday was heartbreaking. i was so used to feeling stuck, frozen, still. but then, something miraculous happened. my mom and i were in the despised wheelchair clinic. dr.m came in to check on me. he cracked a few much needed jokes and then proceeded to check my muscles. 'squeeze my hand'...nothing, 'raise your shoulders'...nothing and then, 'move your head to the right'...SOMETHING! my head moved ever so slightly to the right. it was such a minuscule you could easily have missed it. i completely disregarded it because it was so small and seemingly insignificant. but from the excitement in my mom and dr. m's voice, it was a big deal. but i wouldnt realize that until much later. that was the moment i started to break out of this locked in state. that was the moment i started to get unstuck. that was the moment i started getting into that 20%. that was the defining moment i started to come back to life.

Friday, November 6, 2009

luck be a lady

'If God will take you to it, God will take you through it.' i heard that line one day on the way to therapy when the lady driving my van was listening to gospel station on the radio, and it really stuck with me. yes, god had let this awful thing happen to me, but even though i couldnt see it, he was helping me everyday. i told baldeep once that i was in an awful situation, but it was the best case scenario. yes i was couped up in the hospital, but i had the biggest room all to myself (which was really rare) and i was in the best place i could be. even though there were hellish circumstances, i was treated like a princess. i was SO unlucky that this happened to me, but i was lucky in that i had an amazing family, a loving brother, an incredible boyfriend, awesome friends who would fly accross the country or drive down all the time, just to see me for a few hours, and some of the best doctors. for as long as i can remember, i have wanted to be a doctor, not for the fame and fortune, but for the dream of really, truly touching someones life, whether its helping someone breathe easier, whether physically or emotionally. i hate to say it but so far in med school, i was working with residents who were overworked, underpaid, and completely and utterly exhausted who made it seem like it was a nightmare i was working towards rather than a dream. but my set of doctors were really something else, so passionate and caring, who all went above and beyond the call of duty, who reminded me why i wanted to be a doctor in the first place. first, there was my icu doctor, whose duties ended after the 2 weeks i spent in the ICU, but he continued to visit me almost everyday for the 5 months i spent in the hospital. then there was my main rehab doctor who was an inspiration because he had a terrible accident when he was a teen but turned it into a positive experience by going to med school and becoming a doctor! then there was a neurologist who was a friend of the familys, who provided support and advice that only a friend could. there was my amazing resident, who you will definitely hear more about, who instantly reminded me of myself (because she was a small indian girl) and instantly won me over with her friendliness, knowledge, kindness, and her ability, on her first day, to recognize my 'duke dhamaka' t-shirt. (because her brother was actually my friend at duke! small world)! speaking of small worlds, finally, there was dr. m. he had been our neighbor and friend for many years but now he would become our hero. i even used to babysit his daughters, but i wouldnt call it babysitting, i would call it a sunday afternoon, because we would just play like always! but dr. m happened to be a rehab doctor and one of the smartest/ best doctors im lucky enough to know. from day one, he has been there for us with his unwavering support, words of wisdom, and his hilarious wit. he was a dukie, so i instantly knew i could trust him! he was quietly the brains behind my treament, so with one of the most respected doctors overseeing everything, i knew i was in good hands. i realized that there were probably many people who had awful injuries but didnt nearly have the social support, resources or care that i had. so was this all coincidences, the works of god, or mere strokes of luck?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


lifeless...motionless...powerless... that was how i felt 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. i needed someone to do every little thing for me like adjusting my legs if they were stiff or moving my arm if it was hanging off the bed. i was completely aware of the world around me, but completely unable to interact with it. some describe it as being buried alive and i think it feels like something between that and hell. i really and truly felt like a waste of space. when i had a test coming up in med school, i would waste hours on gchat and facebook instead of studying, and i would always say i felt like a waste of space, but this was the real thing. i could just lie in bed looking straight up (because i had no peripheral vision: my eyes didnt have full range of motion and my neck obvi couldnt move at all and often wore an 'awesome' neck brace) and i wasnt adding anything to the world around me, if anything, i was hurting it and the people around me. i was really just dead weight with a brain. i was physically (and probably emotionally) REALLY hard to handle. to transfer me, i needed two strong nurses or something called a hoyer lift which is the most god-awful piece of equipment ive ever used (sorry jeni!). everyone would try to be so gentle with me, but it was inevitable that i was beat up everyday, like my arm would get stuck under me when they turned me or my foot would get hit during a transfer. but i couldnt do anything about it. i was powerless. every single part of me, from my relentless spirit to my strong, running crazed legs, was powerless to the wrath of the cruel, cruel world around me. so i surrendered. i surrendered to the powers of fate. i couldnt compete with a world that could do this to me. i realized that it didnt matter who i was or what i believed, i couldnt control fate. the only battle i could fight was therapy - i could work harder than i had ever worked before. i couldnt fight with fate but i could certainly work to get the odds in my favor. somewhere in my heart, i did believe i was going to get better but that belief was hidden behind all my fears, covered by all my concerns, and poisoned by the awful things i heard people say.i didnt have the power to fight with fate, but i was able to surrender because you all were fighting that battle for me. it was the unwavering faith of my family, the reassuring confidence of baldeep, and the overwhelming support of my friends that was all more powerful than the strength of fate. fate had silenced us once before with this horrible injury, but we weren't staying quiet anymore. nisha once told me, ' we are all in this together,' and she was right. alone i was powerless, but together we were invincible, untouchable, powerful... and we wouldn't let fate win.

Friday, October 23, 2009

pappu cant dance, sala!

this is for you nisha! this is probably one of the best/worst indian songs of all time, but i have to admit, i love it because it is catchy! dancing, as most of you know, is a HUGE part of my life. ever since i was 3 years old in my pink tutu doing a dance to "im a baby ballerina," i have loved dancing. from jazz, tap, and ballet to indian dancing, dance has always had a place in my heart. in college, duke dhamaka (I see you! DD4L) was my life. i met baldeep because of this team, and i found some of my amazing friends because of this team, like raj, rajeev, ami, and maanasa. but now, i couldnt dance, i couldnt even walk. i needed a wheelchair, a wheelchair! i couldnt believe it. a few weeks ago, i was dancing the night away at georges with baldeep, and now i was paralyzed. how could i get used to the idea of a wheelchair?! i remember my first physical therapy session - it was in the icu, and it just consisted of sitting in a wheelchair. though my back and neck were fully supported, it was so painful and so hard just to sit! and i had to get used to sitting in one all day. when i got to the rehab hospital, i had to be fitted for a wheelchair. as we neared the doorway to the wheelchair clinic, i started crying. not just any crying, but sobbing, weeping, blubbering, and it couldnt be stopped. what did this all mean?? if i was going to be fitted for a wheelchair, then it would be mine. that meant i wasnt going to wake up tomorrow, or next week, or next month, and be able to suddenly walk. would i need this hefty, awful metal thing (that not to mention,TOTALLY cramps my style) forever? the answer was no, but i wouldnt find that out until a lot later. there will come a day when i dont need this anymore, i dont know when that day will come, but it will come. from the beginning, whenever i pictured the day i would be better, i didnt picture myself walking, i didnt picture myself running, i didnt picture myself jumping, i pictured myself dancing. in the icu, i was told i would be up dancing bhangra in 6 months at my brother's graduation. it was nearly impossible to imagine something like that when youre completely paralyzed in bed, but with my heart bursting with hope, that was the image that took over most of my dreams. the sad reality was that in six months, i wasnt even well enough to even GO to my brother's graduation, but thats another story. now, my more realistic goal, is to dance at nishas wedding - i dont know if that will happen, but i say, if youre going to dream, you might as well dream big. GO BIG OR GO HOME! in the meantime, i have rajiv's one-sided shoulder shrug dance down! i decided if i am going to get better, im going to be 110% better, otherwise this whole battle wouldnt be worth it. i sit in a wheelchair so one day i can walk, i will walk with a walker so one day i can run, i will run slowly so one day i can dance, i will dance confidently because it was, and is, my life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

you can stand under my umbrella

some days i didnt want to fight anymore but i had his motivation to keep me going. some days i did just feel like crying, but i had his silly comments to make me smile. some days i did just want to give up, but i had his strength that got me through. some days were rainy, but i had his umbrella to protect me from the storm. i am talking about my brother, anand, who has been unbelievable through all of this. right from the beginning, he spoke my language when i couldnt understand anyone. he explained what happened and what was going to happen in terms of religion AND science which is what i needed to hear. with that he gained my trust at a time when i didnt trust anyone. for some reason, i felt like if he was with me, i would be ok. and though i never told him this or asked him to be here, he has been holding my hand through it all. that trust grew as he became my best therapist, my best advisor, my best doctor, and most importantly, my best friend. yes, every moment was awful still, but in those moments, he helped me breathe a little easier, and really, thats all you can do in situations like this. the angry thoughts and fears could have consumed me but he wouldnt let it. the funny thing is, nothings changed. he is still my motivation and strength. he is still my best therapist and my best doctor. he is still helping me breathe easier. anyone who visits can see that he puts me and my happiness first, even at the expense of his own best interest. though he will never admit it, he has sacrificed so much to be there for me, and that is infinitely more than i could have ever asked for. i am so grateful for having him in my life. im rarely bored because its like having your best friend around all the time. he distracts me from thinking about my awful situation with movies, shows, games, friends and therapy. to quote our favorite song 'tere bina,' "ab tera bina sajna, sajna kaate kate na" meaning 'without you darling, time doesnt even pass.' with him, there are less rainy days, but if it does rain, i have his umbrella to protect me from the storm.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

rain rain, go away, come again another day

i dont know if im exactly a strong girl or a superwoman. there were and still are many days where i dont feel like fighting anymore.there are some days where i just cry uncontrollably all day. there are some days when iwish this battle ended before it even started. yes it would be harder on my loved ones but it would have saved me all this suffering. i would often cry myself to sleep - i dont think people really know what that really means until they actually do it. it took my mom and dad begging me in the icu to realize that it was still me inside, it took my brother countless times to convince me that everything was going to be ok, and it took baldeep reminding me that he loved me, all to get me by. and to get through each day, it was all your letters and prayers. i must have had my mom read your cards and my prayer book like 20 times. the first time i cried so much that my heartrate went up so high to like 160, so they sent me for an emergency CT scan of my chest because they thought i had a pulmonary embolism (these can kill you silently and swiftly so i was defiinitely scared). but iwas fine after that. i still remember some lines people wrote that really touched me, like bobbak told me he needed me, megan reminded me what my name meant, and rajul said was her rock. i didnt have much to look forward to, so i found happiness in these letters. so if you thinkabout it, itwasmt me who was strong, it was the people around me who were strong for me when i couldnt be. you know what the sad thing is? nothings changed. i still have horrible days. i still cry uncontrollably. i still need my brother to convince me that everything will be ok and baldeep to remind me he loves me. i still need the people around me to be strong for me - my housekeeper constantly tells me, "no llores hija. Dios va a curarte" (meaning "dont cry my child. God is going to cure you") and my aid says she sees progreeveryday. i still need to hear from all of you. i cant tell you how much i appreciate your emails - the happy ones, the sad ones, the simple ones, and the touching ones. still, the only thing that can make me stop crying is a visit from friends or a call from baldeep. i have been living for the future,for tomorrow, for when im better, but to be honest, i have no idea when that day will come. so in the meantime, i need to learn to live for the present, for today. but if you look at my today, you will see that it is pretty sad, not at all what a 24 year old should be doing. so help make my today worth living, help me find the strength to get through to tomorrow, help me be your superwoman i wish i could be.

Monday, October 5, 2009

they try to make me go to rehab....

i said no no no! just kidding, i never said no. i was always up for more therapy, and that was because i knew i had nothing to lose and only everything to gain. my brain believed that nurse practitioner (because it was the only thing i had heard from a medical professional at that point) but my heart wanted to believe my parents. but i knew that if i wanted any chance of getting better, it was going to be through therapy. therapy was really frustrating the first couple of weeks, for me and for probably all my therapists too. i had absolutely no movement in any of my muscles so there was nothing really we could do, except they could passively move my joints and electrically stimulating my muscles to contract. i remember the moment we first used the e-stim unit on my hands. i saw my fingers move for the first time in weeks. they had been so lifeless seconds before, but now they were moving. i know it was just because of the e-stim unit but it was still so overwhelming to actually see that somewhere inside, there was life. that gave me a little hope and thats what i held on to. i had overheard a doctor recommend 4-6 weeks,but it had already been 4 weeks and i hadnt seen any improvement yet. i was terrified. but that fear made me want to work harder. but it took a lot of effort to have therapy 6 hours a day everyday, not only because it was discouraging not seeing any improvements,but also it make me leave my room and go to the gym where i would actually see all the other patients. most of them were triple my age and they seemed much better off than me. some had an injury that affected only one side of the body,or either the top or the bottom. and most could talk. i didnt understand why i was so behind. i used to sometimes like it when my parents would forget to put my glasses on for therapy (you guys know im pretty much blind without my glasses), so i couldnt see the world around me. i felt like if i couldnt see them, they couldnt see me. it was (and is) so hard to get up every morning to face an uphill battle. part of me wanted to stay in bed with my misery and avoid the looks from people wondering what the hell happened to that poor girl. but most of me wanted to fight. for everything i am, for everyone i love, and for the fear of what my life could be like, i chose to fight. in one of the first cards megan sent me, she reminded me what i had written in my embarrassing autobiography ( that many of you found) ' I am a writer; I am a poet; I am a dancer; I am a tennis player; I am a leader; I am a fighter; I am a dreamer; I am a friend.' as the esteemed poet dylan thomas once said, 'do not go gentle into that good night. rage, rage against the dying of the light.' i wasnt going down without a fight. ever since november 29th, i get up every morning because i choose to fight.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

devuelve me la vida que me has quitado

this was one of the most popular songs in spain while we were there. it means 'give me back the life you took from me' was january 15th - the infamous day all of our applications were due for our research opportunities for our third year of med school. but i wasnt signing any applications, i was far from signing anything for that matter. a few weeks before, i had EVERYTHING. i was a 2nd year med student running around all day, starting my rotations and loving every minute of it. i had an incredible boyfriend who i made sure to see everyday. i had amazing friends and i even got to live with one in my cute apartment. i was so excited about where life would take me professionally, romantically, and socially. but suddenly,my world stopped, and everything i had was ripped away from me. but what i never understood was that only my world stopped, everyone elses worlds were still going strong. its like i was lying completely still (literally and figuratively) while the whole world was passing me by and leaving me behind. i didnt understand why my friends were talking about all the applications they had to finish by january 15th. i realized that everyones life had gone on, and i had to accept that mine couldnt. i slowly learned to live vicariously through other peoples adventures and stories. there was nothing even remotely exciting going on in my everyday, so my friends lives became my soap operas, i loved hearing what people were doing. but i would be lying if i said it didnt kill me a little inside everytime. i know im missing out on a lot but i have to remember that one day i wont be missing out on things anymore. in the meantime, i have all your stories to live through. i told baldeep the other day before he went to our homecoming that now, he had to celebrate for two, and now i ask you all the same thing:

live a little better, dream a little bigger, fight a little longer, party a little harder...for me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

im everything i am, because you loved me

they were my strength when i was weak. they were my voice when i couldnt speak.literally. they were my mom and dad. from day one, when all i could do was cry, my mom looked me in the eye and told me i was going to be ok. and still even when i cry now, my mom just hugs me and reminds me that im going to be ok. thats sometimes all i need to hear. it wasnt only my life that stopped on november 29th, my parents lives stopped too. instead of living peacefully on a golf course, meeting clients, and talking politics everyday, they were living in a hospital, meeting different doctors, and talking catheters everyday. but we had an amazing community behind us the whole time. because my parents were such loving, caring, and respected people in the community, there were so many of their friends there by our side to help in anyway that they could. some people i knew really well, some i kind of knew, and some i didnt know at all but they knew and loved my parents. what better way to show their love than with food! while we were in ICU, they would bring every meal tothe hospital, and for the 5 months we spent in the hospital, they continued to provide every meal for my family. i realized that my parents must have been really, pretty special to receive that much parents also showed my friends so much love, because i couldnt. they said all the things i wish i could have said, like 'congrats' to kristen when she got engaged or 'good luck' to howie when he was starting his rotation in charlotte. whether it was through good food or good words, they showed all my friends we truly appreciated. i will always be thankful to my parents for many things, but one thing in particular. from the moment baldeep stepped into the ICU, though they barely knew him, they treated him like a son. and have truly loved him ever since. so mom and dad, i know i dont say it enough, but here it is in writing, thank you for EVERYTHING. i love you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

silent night

i got REALLY used to silence. awkward silences, painful silences, and frustrating silences. i had just come to the hospital where i would spend the next 5 months, or 136 days and i couldnt talk to anyone. i was with the same nurses 24-7 as they helped me get ready, gave me my medicine,
and brought me my food, but they didnt know anything about me passed my name. if i could have have talked to them, i would have asked them how their day was going and how their kids were doing. most of all, i would have thanked them, for each and every little thing i had to do, from making my hair to making me laugh (thank you dia). then there were my therapists, aka the miracle workers, who i spent most of the day with. i had gotten to know them so well, like their birthdays, their college stories, how they met their husbands, everything, but they knew nothing about me. i wanted to tell them my crazy stories, that i loved dancing more than anything, that i had stdied abroad in spain, that i loved working with kids. i couldnt even tell them what exercises i liked or that certain ones caused my ankle to twist causing severe pain. i couldnt even smile at anyone, so i couldnt even interact with anyone, all i could do is cry, and thats what i did. then there were my friends - their visits were the only thing i had to look forward to, but it killed me that i couldnt talk to them. i had a million questions for them swirling around in my head and driving me insane because i couldnt even ask a single one. if i could have spoken, i would have asked them how they were and thanked them for coming. most of all, i would tell them i needed them to come and to keep coming. when baldeep would call, i would be beaming inside, but couldnt even show it. my mom would just hold the phone to my ear and the burden would be on him to talk and think of different stories to tell me. i had so many responses for him, but all i could do was listen, and hope he could feel my heart holding onto his every word. there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to communicate. having so many thoughts trapped in your mind is terrible. there were so many comments i wish i could have said, so many questions i wish i could have asked, and so many thoughts i wish i could have shared, but all you could hear was silence.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

no air

just keep breathing... thats all i had to do. little did i know that it would be one of my biggest challenges.i was intubated and on a ventilator for about 2 weeks. they were giving me a sedative they like to call "milk of amnesia" so i dont remember much. thank goodness for that because even the thought of that is terrifying. i saw those kinds of things on shows like ER and greys, but this time there were no actors, no set, no script. i couldnt and still cant believe that in this new show, i was the main character and i was struggling to breathe. i just hoped that like the other shows, it would have a happy ending.after i was extubated, they put in a trach tube. to this day, i cant tell you exactly what a trach is, but i needed it to live. it was a hole that was at the base of my neck that also pierced my trachea which made breathing easier. each shallow breath left me craving more air. every breath felt so delibrate, so forced, so effortful, like i could just stop breathing at any point. i could end this whole nightmare if i just stopped breathing...but i didnt want to stop. for my family, for you, and especially for baldeep. i kept breathing. in the rehab hospital, they immediately started weaning me from the trach, which was def one of the hardest things ive ever had to do. but you know me, my stubborness and determination helped me get through this awful time. as they were slowly closing off my trach, i would feel so breathless and short of breath for hours or days until my body adjusted. its like i was gasping for air and at any point, i was so scared i wouldnt have enough air. i had to remind myself to just keep breathing... but finally came the day they took the trach out! january 1st, 2009 - a great start to the new year. my first big accomplishment. but that night was horrible - my worst night in the hospital. i didnt sleep at all and im sure anand, who was staying with me that night, didnt sleep either. my body was still getting used to breathing just from my nose so i couldnt breathe when the bed was flat to sleep. so i had to sleep sitting up completely, which made it impossible to sleep. i was too scared to call the nurse because the last thing i wanted was to have the trach back in, so i decided to tough it out for the night."just keep breathing" i said to myself about 1000 times that night. and thankfully we made it to morning and every morning after. now all i had left from this experience are a few awful memories and a sweet scar on my neck. so this story did have a happy ending. o when life is too hard for me, when everyday is a struggle, when i cant live, cant breathe with no air, when the world seems too overwhelming, i have to just keep breathing... and the morning will come...

Monday, September 7, 2009

sometimes love comes around

moving to the rehab hospital was def a good thing. there were no set visiting hours so people could always be with me. i never had to be alone anymore! but during the holidays, the rehab hospital was depressing to say the least. no christmas tree or ornaments or decorations. my family had christmas eve dinner in the hospital cafeteria. we were in hell, but we werent alone - my friends came with us. i have been shocked by the endless love you all have shown me, but i want to share with you some stories about a group of people whose love knocked me down and left me breathless. they were there every step of the way alongside baldeep and my family. they were my charlotte friends. my mom recently read me one of their first cards: it said they were my older brothers and younger brothers, older sisters and younger sisters, and they would be there every step of the way, and they have done just that. to my surprise, on christmas day, we didnt have to be alone. they had created a christmas party for us complete with good food,great presents, and even better company. it is awful to be in the hospital during the holidays, but it wasnt so bad because i had my friends and family by my side. then new years was right around the corner, and again, i wasnt alone. instead of making plans to go to some party or some club, my charlotte girls, my family, and baldeep had our own little party in my hospital room. i couldnt believe my girlfriends wanted to stay with me. i remember we were all crowded around my small, heavy,ancient tv forthe countdown. i started crying because someone was saying it was my year, but despite those tears, i still got my new years kiss, a peck on the cheek from baldeep :)everyday since then, they have been there. ruchi was in charlotte last year, so she came to the hospital almost everyday, and when she had to go off to school, setu had just moved home so she took over. kunal has been working in charlotte so he comes at least once a week.And everyone else on their vacations has come by. i will be feeling so shitty during the day, and the only things that can make me smile are a call from baldeep or a visit from friends. its what i look forward to because its one of the few good things in my day. whether im watching sex and the city with setu, letting ruchi look at my cards in uno, or eating a delicious meal prepared by krishna, i feel normal again. in one way i was very alone in this world because no one had any idea what i was going through, but if you think about it, i was never really alone. sometimes love comes around, and it knocks you down, but its that same love, that has picked me back up again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

dont stop believing

i know what everyone wants to hear - that im so glad this happened to me, that i have learned so much from this experience, that i wouldnt trade this for anything... that couldnt be farther from the truth. i dont care if you hear that on oprah, its a bunch of bs. i HATE that this happened to me, i havent learned anything from this (except maybe how little i learned from med school), and i would trade this for anything. because this is, to put it lightly, hell. everyday since my injury has been awful. but by far, the icu was the worst. i ended up spending 16 hellish days in the icu, 5 horrible months in the rehab hospital, and now im at home with a better tv, better food, and better surroundings but same old problems. i remember one of my first days in the icu, visiting hours just ended and i was left alone again. it had been an awful day already. i had just spent 45 minutes tryinsg to tell my parents that the nurses had put my abdominal binder on way too tightly and the edges were digging into my skin (try explaining that with your eyes). i was frustrated. i was angry. iwas depressed. i was hopeless. iwas so alone. life seemed so unfair and i didnt want to live in a world that was that unfair... and then i heard a familiar voice. i didnt know who it was, but it was def someone i knew. after some machine stopped beeping, i heard the voice say, "she has been my best friend since middle school." thats it! it was ruchi. i wanted to call out her name,or wave at her or smile at her, something to let her know i heard her and appreciated her visit. even though i didnt talk to her, i was so surprised and so touched by her visit. her accidental visit reminded me why i was still here. i had so many people who i loved, but they loved me too. i had so many people who made it worth it to live in this unfair world. i had to believe there was some purpose to all of this. i had to believe iwould get through this. i had to believe that one day, i will look back, and be glad that this happened to me. i had to believe that i will learn something from this. i have to believe that one day, i wont want to trade this for anything. i just had to believe. if not for me, for you.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

if these eyes could talk

i was defined and confined by my eyes. they were the only muscles in my entire body, besides my heart, that worked. my eyes had to speak for me, smile for me, cry for me, and scream for me. after some trial and error, i was told to look up for yes and down for no. that was my only form of communication for months. it killed me so much to look into baldeeps eyes, hear him say 'i love you' and only able to respond 'yes' with my eyes. my eyes were useless when it came to vision because i couldnt look left or right and i didnt wear my glasses much in the icu and you guys know im pretty much blind with out them, so i learned to rely on my ears a lot. i could hear the nurses coming in and out and changing something or the other on one of the many machines i was hooked up to. i could hear the whistling of the janitor every morning who cleaned the floor. i remember wishing with all my strength to trade places with them. i was so jealous of them because everything seemed so easy for them like walking and talking. i didnt understand why i was the one lying in bed and they were the ones taking care of me. i was absolutely helpless. the nurses would position my legs and some positions would kill, but i had no way of telling them that. so i would just pray that visiting hours would begin soon and my parents would come. then i would show them somehow an uncomfortable expression with just my eyes or maybe i sent a telepathic message to my mom, who knows, but regardless, my parents could tell something was bothering me. then we would begin a 10 minute guessing game about 'what was bothering harshada'. hot? cold? arms? stomach? i would answer 'yes' or 'no' with my eyes. its like in pictionary, when you think you have a great drawing, but your teammates keep guessing wrong because they have no idea what youre thinking. your teammates feel bad because they cant figure out the answer and you get so frustrated and you just want to yell out the answer but you cant. there is so much i wanted to yell out but couldnt. there is only so much my eyes could say. i would have told baldeep i loved him so much too and told my family thank you so much for always being by my side. but i couldnt. the only way i could sleep at night was knowing that they could already see in my eyes, all the things i wanted to say.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

i can cry if i want to

i cried alot. that is def an understatement. the doctors said i had less control over my emotions, but the truth of the matter was that there was nothing to be happy about. i hated when people told me to stop crying because it wasnt like i wanted to cry. i knew crying wasnt a good look for me and they had no idea how shitty i was feeling. you would cry too if it happened to youuuu. for 13 days in the icu, there was no laughter only tears. but then on the 14th day, something magical happened. i laughed. there was no smile yet because i couldnt move the muscles of my mouth and there was no voice because my vocal cords werent working yet, but if you listened closely there was laughter. it was my birthday and ankur and laju said something crazy. and then it happened again, when bobbak, neil, and subie told me they had first gone to the wrong hospital, and then again when leah and jen gave me a singing balloon. and the laughter continued-whether it was my dads poor jokes, my brothers funny lines, my inside jokes with baldeep, my old memories with rajul or the ridculous things nisha would say that leave me laughing for hours, days, and weeks after. when you feel like crying all the time it feels really good to laugh. really good. now i even have a smile to accompany my laugh, not a symmetric smile but a smile nonetheless. i even had a sound to my laugh, not a very pretty sound, but at least it was something. i learned to laugh at myself too which made this awful situation a little better. like when leah made fun of my old wheelchair or when baldeep coined a term for how my family transfers me, the"bachu toss" (bachu is his nickname for me), they made the things i was most embarrassed about seem funny. they always treated me like they used to which was so refreshing. i also loved watching comedies like friends because for those 23 minutes, i could just get lost in ross's awkwardness and phoebes craziness, get some genuine, free laughs and forget my situation. nowadays, iprobably laugh just as much as i cry, which is still pretty bad, but hey its an improvement. i love laughing because for that one little second, that one fleeting moment, i could escape my reality.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the variable (continued)

i really wish that nurse could see me now. today was the first time i walked. granted i was using a special walker and two people were helping me, but it was def still walking!

Monday, August 17, 2009

the variable

(another lost episode) the variable was the polar opposite of my constant. they were the people in this struggle who hurt me rather than helped me. they left my world in pieces. they added to my fears and confusion and made me doubt who i was inside. they were certain nurses and visitors who said things to me that cut me deep and left wounds that lasted months. one day in the icu, a nurse practitioner came in to see me. my grandmother, who was the only one in my room, innocently asked "when will she walk again?" she replied"she will never walk again. she has locked-in syndrome." those words crushed me. i felt like my entire soul and spirit had been sucked out of me. i didnt know what locked-in syndrome was but it sounded awful. i hadnt heard anything from the doctors about my situation, i had only heard from my family who was more optimistic. it was never something they questioned. my parents kept saying " have faith, everything will be fine again". but i didnt know how to reconcile that statement with what that nurse said. and when something terrible happens to you out of the blue God is the last person you wanted to trust so i cried even more. since that approach clearly wasnt working, my brother came to me with a different approach. he said i was young and healthy,and because of the plasticity of thebrain, it will make new connections. he told me i would get better with time and to always have faith. and he was right...i only now researched more about locked-in syndrome and im so glad i didnt really know about it before because i would have been even more terrified. that nurse was right about one thing - i did have locked-in syndrome. many people who have this never recover and die soon after. but 20% break out of the syndrome and pretty much have full recoveries. by some divine intervention, im miraculously part of that 20%. i know it will be a long road ahead, and im sure i will come acros some variableswho can definitely hurt my spirit but they will never change the fact that my journey on this road will have a happy ending.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

the constant

i decided to title this post after my favorite episode of lost. in this episode , desmond has to find the one thing in his life he can rely on when his whole world is falling apart. this is the one thing that reminds him who he is and where he comes from. this is the one thing that can save him...i had that something. that something was someone. that someone was my constant. baldeep was my constant,and he saved me. when my whole world was crumbling apart, he was there to pick up the pieces. he reminded me that underneath the fear and confusion, beneath the completely broken body, it was still me. he had given me a greater gift than i could have ever asked for. he loved me. not because he had to, but because he wanted to. and thats all i needed to get by.... at the end of the episode, desmond finally contacts his constant,penny, the love of his life. it was a touching moment when the viewer realizes that penny still loves desmond and is waiting for him. she didnt save his life just by being there when he needed her most, she gave him a reason to live...

Monday, August 10, 2009

the great escape

from the moment i blacked out to the moment i woke up in the icu, i dont remember anything except one distinct memory...I was somewhere between being awake and being asleep. i was laying down in some bed. my dad and possibly my nurse were standing over me on either side, watching me. i could hear my dad crying and reciting a hindu prayer. my breathing was getting slower and harder. was this the end?! scared, shocked, and confused dont even begin to explain my feelings at that point. all i could think about was how there were so many people i could NEVER leave behind, but it didnt seem like i had a choice.`my breathing got even slower and i felt myself drifting away... but to my surprise, i woke up in the icu. i was def relieved! but i knew i had a host of other problems, but at least i was still breathing. i realized that God could have ended my life when he had the chance, but he didnt and there must be a reason for that. instead of being sad about that, it motivates me to keep trying, to keep working, to keep fighting. or as howie told me, to just keep swimming.... my parents reassured me later that i was nevdr in any real danger. they were just weaning me off the ventilator and it wasnt fun to watch. i had escaped a huge battle but little did i know that i had a terrible battle ahead...

Friday, August 7, 2009

celebrate we will

i spent my 24th birthday in the icu. and i thought having an anatomy test on my birthday last year was bad! a month earlier, i had planned the most perfect bday. my bday was finally going to be on a saturday, so i was going to host a party at my apt with the purple wall on friday night. i had the perfect dress with the perfect accessories all picked out. for saturday night, i had gotten john legend tix for baldeeps bday and the concert happened to be on my bday. could it sound more perfect? but when my bday came along, instead of being at a fabulous party in my apt with the purple wall, i was in an ugly icu. instead of the perfect dress, i was in some gross hospital gown. instead of my cute accessories, i had other accessories, like a hideous bite block, a trach, a PICC line, a PEG tube, and a catheter( i looked awful) instead of hearing john legend live, we had his cd playing in the background. but one thing was how i had hoped. i had my amazing friends there. i felt so touched that i had so many people in my life who WANTED to be there with me. i had about 40 visitors who came into my room in pairs and i was so shocked everytime the door opened because i didnt know people loved me that much to be brave enough to come see me. it was people from charlotte, people from undergrad, and a ton of people from duke med! i had everything emotionally - an incredible family, an unbelievable boyfriend, and amazing friends, but i had NOTHING physically. this will always be the birthday i spent in the icu,but it will also be be the birthday i realized i already had all that mattered.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The worst nightmare

what the hell happened to me? that was one of the main questions consuming me. i didnt find out many of the details until much later.i remember praying that it was all a nightmare and that i would wake up and it would all be over. i wasnt stupid - i knew a stroke could cause this but wasnt i way too young for that? some may call me a cougar, but i was still only 23! through my anger and tears, my family and baldeep tried to explain to me what happened. let me tell you how this nightmare began... so i went to my eye doctor one morning because i had two migraine-like headaches (student health seemed pretty sure they were "opthalmic migraines"). the eye doctor thought this too but suddenly as i was sitting there, the room started spinning uncontrollably. i was having an episode of vertigo for the first time and i felt so nauseous. my parents took me to urgent care like we were told. they gave me a shot and right after, i felt a tingling all over my body. i tried to callout to my mom, the words were there, but my voice wasnt. then everything went black.... apparently they rushed me to the hospital,did a CT scan that didnt show anything wrong, and finally an MRI/MRA. it showed i had bilateral vertebral artery dissections causing a basilar artery clot leading to a pontine stroke (sorry very medical!) i didnt really understand it at all, but hearing those words hurt so much because they confirmed my biggest fear - that this wasnt all just a nightmare, it was my reality. why did this happen to me and could it have been prevented? these questions were killing me. the answer was that it was totally random and it couldnt have been prevented because no doctor in any ER or hospital would have expected this and would have the foresight to do an MRI/MRA. that answer was both a blessing and a curse. it made me less hard on myself but it gave me no one to blame except for God. im still praying that i will wake up one and this whole nightmare will all be over...

Monday, August 3, 2009


imagine waking up one morning without a care in the world. imagine waking up the next time alone and in a strange place with no recollection of how you got there. imagine then not being able to move a single muscle in your body and barely able to see the world around you. imagine not even being able to call out for help as if someone had stolen your voice (like ariel from the little mermaid). imagine hearing silence interrupted by beeping...that was me and it was terrifying. i had a million questions and two million fears running through my head but all icould do was wait. so i waited. but as i waited, my mind wandered even more. sometimes, your mind can can be your own worst enemy. just when i thought i couldnt take it anymore, something happened... what sudd'enly appeared by my side were the warm, smiling, familiar faces of my family and baldeep. and for a second there, ifelt comforted, like their smiles were shielding me from all those fears and quetions that were consuming me. and they have been by my side ever since...

Friday, July 31, 2009


Hey guys!
because of nishas great idea, i decided to start a blog! i want to keep you all updated and share some of my experiences. so i have had a whole range of luck over the past year. some say it was because of science, some say it was because of faith,who knows. but i want to share with you guys the good - how far i have come, the bad - how far i still have to go, and the ugly - my crazy stories. i have been "locked in" for 8 months so as you can imagine, i have a lot to say! if any of you have any questions, comments,or suggestions of what i should include dont hesitate to email me. let me briefly update those of you i havent seen much: im doing well at home and i go for therapy three times a week. i have been practicing sitting,standing,biking,and strengthening my arms. i cant bhangra yet, but i can arm wrestle you like a champ! my voice is still weak and unclear,but most people can understand most of what im saying. thats about it. so my story begins with the one fact that haunts me everyday - i was 23 and i had a stroke...