There are rare people in society who draw inspiration from tragedy in personal life and make a career out of it.
Meet Rakesh Srivastava, 44, who has made a career in prosthetics and orthotics, after his left leg was amputated 34 years ago following a road accident at Bihar’s Begusarai district, about 120 km from Patna.
An American Board certified prosthetics and orthotic, Srivastava is currently based in the USA. Founder and chief executive officer of Innovative Prosthetics and Orthotic, he successfully runs three clinics at Omaha, Hastings and Grand Island Nebraska in the USA and has treated about 1000 patients there.
Though he is miles away from Begusarai, where he was born to Manorama Srivastava and Late Upendra Prasad Srivastava, ‘A’ grade operator in electrical department of Indian Oil Corporation’s Barauni unit, his heart beats for Bihar.
He wants to pay back to the state and establish a ‘centre of excellence’ in prosthetics and orthotics. For this, he is scouting for venture capital to set up a manufacturing and rehabilation centre in Bihar.
“In May I will meet the Bihar chief minister and the state health secretary with a team of foreign delegates to give a presentation on my project and seek government support to set up the centre in Bihar,” he said. “I wish to introduce an affordable prosthetics using 3D printing technology here,” he said.
Youngest among two brothers and equal number of sisters, Srivastava’s life took a turn when he was just 11 years old.
“I was a Class 5 student in St Paul’s School, Begusarai, when during the summer vacation I along with my parents was going to Nariyar village under Kahara block in Saharsa district, about 240 km from Patna. Spotting my father, who had come to see us off, I ran to the other side of the road to hug him when a truck hit me,” Srivastava told HT.
The next thing he remembers was that he was in Begusarai sadar hospital. “An unidentified woman volunteered to donate blood, which saved me. I was later rushed to Nazareth hospital, Mokama, (now closed), about 35 km from Begusarai,” he said. The doctor there amputated my left leg. “On the hospital bed when I asked my mother to massage my left leg and found it missing, I slipped into unconsciousness for six days,” he said.
With such a colossal loss, Srivastava’s life moved from hospital bed to school campus but the 11-year-old boy maintained his strong mental frame. However, to escape from being paid special attention, thereby making him feel weak mentally, his parents shifted him to another school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Barauni Refinery Township in Begusarai.
“On doctor’s advice, when I along with my father visited Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), a government undertaking in Kanpur, to get a prosthetic limb, I started developing interest in the field of prosthetics,” he said. “The prosthetic limb they gave at ALIMCO was painful to wear and many a times it bruised the remaining portion of my leg. This ignited fire in my belly to do something in the field of prosthetics,” he recalled.
Srivastava’s 82% disability was not an impediment in his studies in school. “Despite the accident, I did not drop a year and scored well in matric and inter exams. Contrary to pressure of my parents to switch to engineering or medical stream, I cleared the entrance exam of National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, Cuttack, in 1990,” he said.
Armed with a diploma degree, he worked for some time in New Delhi with an NGO where he met his life partner Anchala Srivastava, an occupational therapist.
In 1997 he got scholarship to study bachelor and masters degrees in prosthetics in the US. He got a degree from American Board of Certification for Orthotics and Prosthetics, which he claimed was an extraordinary achievement due to its strict parameters.