For 25 years, Nallasopara resident Reena Kamble walked hunched supporting her weak right knee with her right hand — a deformity her family became aware of when she was not even one.
Recuperating after a recent corrective surgery at the All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIIPMR) in Mahalaxmi, Kamble is waiting to be able to walk straight.
Elsewhere in the institute, sitting in a wheel chair is a senior marine officer who does not wish to be identified.
He says he was paralysed last July. What he thought was spondylolysis turned out to be abcess or pus in the spinal cord. “I could not move. I could not lift a finger. Now, I’m confident I’ll start walking again.”
His wife, Sita Rao, says that she had given up hope till she came to AIIPMR where exercise and physiotherapy has enabled her husband to walk with the help of a walker.
Though AIIPMR is 55-years-old, few know of its facilities that can help patients with locomotive disabilities due to a stroke, congenital disorder or accidents regain limb movements.
Even among medical practitioners the important field of rehabilitation is often ignored, says AIIPMR director Dr B.D. Athani.
“We set goals for patients based on the level of damage to their system. With intensive physiotherapy, corrective surgery and other medication, we bring the patient as close to his normal working life as possible,” he says.
The institute treats patients suffering from acute pain from arthritis, speech disorders and locomotive and gait disorders in the elderly due to degeneration.
Initially, the institute, first in India with a comprehensive rehabilitation model, worked primarily with polio-afflicted people. “The incidence of polio has reduced but there are more cases of cerebral palsy in children,” says Dr Athani.
The maximum number of patients at the institute are train accident victims — on an average, 10 per month — followed by road accidents and terror attacks.
Diabetes is another major reason for people losing their limbs due to gangrene, says Dr Athani.
Artificial limbs that would cost Rs 35,000 by a private provider are free here. The institute attends to 18,000 to 20,000 patients every year.
“We can handle at least 5,000 more patients if they are referred to us,” says Dr Athani.
His aim is to set up satellite centres in district areas where routine intervention can help rehabilitate those with disabilities.