Until three years ago, Diksha Kulkarni needed her parent’s physical support to walk.
The 16-year-old, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of six, could not walk because her knees were bent. But all that has changed for Kulkarni who underwent one hip surgery, two knee surgeries and psychotherapy to overcome her condition. Last year, she completed her class X with 86 per cent.
Kulkarni travels back and forth her Dombivli College with the help of one stick.
“I am enjoying each day with my new college mates and teachers. I am more confident today as I am able to walk more comfortably,” said Kulkarni.
Added her father, C.M. Kulkarni, “We had lost all hopes and never thought that she would be able to walk again. But the right treatment has definitely mobilised her.”
Cerebral palsy, which mainly occurs due to an interference in brain development, causes difficulty in movement, speech and, sometimes, learning in children.
This occurs either in the womb, during birth or even after two years of birth, during which rapid development of the brain takes place. According to doctors, cerebral palsy affects three cases per 1,000 births.
While the Kulkarnis treated their daughter early, Dr Ashok N Johari said awareness is still very low that the condition can be treated, if not completely cured.
“Many children with this condition can lead a normal life. People should also understand that all the children with this condition are not mentally retarded,” said Dr Johari. “Though the treatment for cerebral palsy is not totally curable, the palliative treatment provided to these children on continuous basis can make them lead a near normal life.”
To generate awareness, Johari, who heads the Indian Academy of Cerebral Palsy, comprising doctors and rehabilitation professionals from across the country, are observing Sunday as the first National Cerebral Palsy Day.
The Indian Academy of Cerebral Palsy will write to the social welfare ministry, asking it to declare October 3 as a national cerebral day with the intention to follow up with a campaign.
Like Kulkarni, Sara Lokhandwala (10) was also not able to walk as fast as other kids, facing difficulties in climbing and jumping.
“When she was six months old, we found that she has cerebral palsy. I bought her a pair of shoes and observed that her right leg did not fit into the shoe as it had become very stiff,” recalled her mother Shabana Lokhandwala.
“We immediately consulted our doctor and started the right line of treatment.”
Sara was given Botulinum toxin type A drug therapy. Today, she regularly attends physiotherapy sessions, leading an active life like any other child of her age.
“There could be severe to minor to no mental retardation in this condition. It is a wide spectrum. The treatment options range from surgical interventions, rehabilitation techniques and drug therapies,” said Dr Rujuta Mehta, consultant pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, Jaslok Hospital.
“It is very sad that in India there are no special transportation facilities available to the adults and children with the condition of cerebral palsy.”