In mid-2014, Pallium India’s Chairman, Dr M. R. Rajagopal, received an interesting email.
“My name is Ashla and I am a quadriplegic,” wrote the author. “I work part time as a software engineer. I am searching for a place where I can get help for my activities of daily living. In turn, I can be a volunteer there.”
Naturally, our curiosity was piqued. Realising that Ashla was writing from a rehabilitation hospital at Ernakulam, Dr Rajagopal requested Pallium India’s trustee Binod Hariharan to visit her.
After his visit and a long talk with Ashla, Binod informed the Pallium India team that Ashla had had a fall from a running train, on her way to Chennai where she worked. Binod said: “I was inspired by her charming personality and positive outlook towards life.”
After a few days, Ashla Krishnan moved to Pallium India’s Trivandrum Institute, where she became a resident as well as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman.
Soon, it was evident to all that she could be more than just a person who receives palliative care. She had the potential to lead and inspire others in providing palliative care and offering solace to those in situations similar to her own.
“Given a choice,” Ashla says, “I would indeed like to get up and walk again. However, it is also true that my life in the last few years has been more meaningful than the 28 years in which I was able to walk. Today my life has a purpose, thanks to palliative care.”
Today Ashla works for Pallium India’s educational support program for children of poor patients, and provides emotional support and counselling to people who are in the throes of depression and loneliness, in addition to her responsibilities as Dr Rajagopal’s Executive Assistant.
In an article published in the Times of India dated March 11, 2017, titled: ‘When compassion isn’t enough: Society must wake up to the rights of those living with disabilities’, Ashla writes: “I want you to know that my paralysis does not define me. I want you to recognise that I am more than my body.
“My brain, ordinary as it is, still functions. I also have other abilities. I began by saying I am a quadriplegic. But I would want you to think of me as a human being with quadriplegia.”