At 17, Shailesh Kumar Sinha was a free-spirited boy who loved sports, especially football. He played the sport with his friends often, but one day, things didn’t go according to plan. Shailesh had hurt his knee and in fun and play, his friend was carrying him back to his home. The friend lost balance and tripped over, collapsing to the ground on top of Sailesh. In the accident, Shailesh cracked a rib and injured his spine. Since that day onwards, his legs may have stopped working, but his spirit still flies high.
Now, at 24, he is the fastest half-marathon participant in a wheelchair and a national-level wheelchair basketball player. He has also completed a full marathon on a tricycle that is peddled by hands. Today, he is aiming for the 2020 Summer Paralympics.
As expected, it hasn’t been an easy journey. for Shailesh, who works as a physio-coordinator and wheelchair skills trainer at a rehabilitation centre in Chandigarh. The athlete was in the city recently to conduct a workshop, which was attended by 35 people who have spinal cord injuries, that was organised by the IAmPossAble foundation. “I taught them about how to manage their urine and bowels, how to get into a car from a wheelchair and vice-verca, how to manage bed sores, etc.” says Shailesh.
On overcoming challenges, he says, “The doctors had told me that I couldn’t do anything. I thought my life was over till I met Vaidyanathan Srinivasan, my mentor, who gave me a different perspective on life. I didn’t even know what a marathon was until I met him. I had to be carried by six people in the beginning, almost like a corpse. But now, I go around all over the country all by myself. I have trained myself to manage my bladder and bowel and move around on my own,” he says.
His life changed after he was offered a job by his mentor. “I was hopeless in the beginning but when I reached the rehabilitation center, I saw people who were in a worse condition than me living life happily. Helping others like me and giving them the kind of confidence that my mentor has given me has been life-changing.”
On his workshop in Hyderabad, he says, “I got a great response. Two people who attended my workshop hadn’t gotten out of their homes for anything but the hospital in 14 years! They are afraid about having to urinate outside, which people like us cannot control. After the workshop, they seemed to be more positive,” concludes Shailesh.