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From Ouch to Oops

  • From Ouch to Oops

    From Ouch to Oops

    From Ouch to Oops is the inspirational true story of RamG’s life and holds lessons not just for people with disabilities but anyone with a mental demon.

    Oops the Mighty Gurgle
  • Ouch!

    He couldn’t do up his buttons. But he conquered life. One man’s journey from pain to triumph.

    RamG Vallath has everything going for him. He has studied at IIT, seen a 200 per cent jump in his salary and become one of the youngest circle heads in India’s telecom sector. When he steps into the role of a director at a major multinational computer hardware firm, he thinks he has it made.

    But life is soon about to come crashing down on him. He is diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that weakens his muscles. Mundane tasks like buttoning up his shirt, climbing down steps and typing on a keyboard become extremely difficult.

    To make things worse, he loses his job at a time when his annual hospitalization bill has gone up to Rs 20 lakh.

    But even as the chips are down and hope starts to fade, RamG decides not to give up. He becomes the cheerleader at home and outside, spreading positivity wherever he goes and choosing to tackle his challenges head-on.

    Here’s his story.

    The meeting was scheduled for 8 a.m. I was up at 5 a.m. Not because I was a health freak and had to stand on my head in a complex yoga pose or sweat it out in the gym for an hour. I just had to take a bath, have my breakfast and, most important, do up the six buttons of the shirt I would wear — three tasks that any healthy person would have completed in thirty minutes or less.

    But I needed three hours because of my condition: CIDP, short for Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, a rare autoimmune disorder which weakened my arms and legs.

    This was in 2009 and I was Director, Volume Operations, for HP India. It was my first meeting in Singapore with the Asia Pacific leadership team, and I did not want to run the risk of appearing too casual by putting on a T-shirt. So there was no way of avoiding the six buttons.

    I had planned it all out meticulously. I would order the breakfast at 5.15 a.m., finish my shower before room service arrived, then put on my clothes and finish the breakfast — all by 7.30 a.m., so that I could be in office well in time for the meeting.

    But even before I could get to the buttons, my calculations started to go completely awry. I had to pull a small steel lever to start the flow of water from the shower-head, and my fingers just did not have the strength for that. I first tried to pull the lever with my left hand, then with my right, and then with both. By this time, I had broken into a sweat but the shower did not start.

    The mild jet-lag had acutely worsened my condition, and my hands and fingers were almost useless and trembling uncontrollably. I decided to abandon the bath. I quickly soaked a towel and started to wipe myself clean as best as I could. Holding the heavy water-soaked towel and moving it up and down my body was quite a challenge. But I managed to complete the sponge bath just in time to open the door, wrapped in a towel, for room service.

    And then it was time for the most excruciatingly difficult task. I had to put on a shirt. I slipped it on and closed my eyes in a silent prayer to Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. I knew that I needed all the help that I could get.

    My hands trembling uncontrollably, I reached for the top button with my right hand while holding the buttonhole with my left. With every fibre of my being focused on the act of positioning the button exactly next to the buttonhole, I tried again and again to push it through, but in vain.

    Over the next half hour, I must have attempted this at least ten times. But each time, the right thumb failed to muster sufficient strength to push the button through. It kept slipping out of my weak fingers. After every minute, I would have to drop my hands because my biceps did not have enough strength to hold
    them up.

    After a fruitless half an hour, I decided to try doing up the buttons while lying in bed so that I did not have to hold my hands up. It was also easier to position the button exactly next to the buttonhole this way. Finally, after another half hour of sweating, trembling and struggling, I managed to do the top button.

    It took me ninety minutes to finish buttoning up the entire shirt. By the time I was ready, I knew that there was no time to have breakfast. At 7.30 a.m., I rushed to the office and managed to reach the conference venue just in time.

    But the twenty minutes I spent in the car was all that I needed to recover mentally. I was ready to be the life and soul of the meeting. I had bounced back. I always do. That is why I am the most positive person I have ever met.