She lost her arms and legs and decided to run


In 2013, Shalini Saraswathi pregnant with her first child and returning from her wedding anniversary celebrations in Cambodia, developed a mild fever.

But the mild fever soon worsened and Shalini was diagnosed to have developed an acute case of Rickettsial with morts – a rare bacterial infection which doctors had just heard of.

Shalini’s life turned upside down over the next few months. She remained in the ICU of a local hospital, where she lost her baby – something that Shalini considers as the biggest loss of her life.

As she battled her condition further, gangrene attacked her left arm and it seemed almost certain that it would have to be amputated.

Her left hand was amputated and a few months later her right hand dropped off on its own. But her ordeal was far from over. Her legs gave way to gangrene next. From deep within her, Shalini drew on courage that only a true fighter could access.                                                                                 

Shalini is the kind of woman who doesn’t accept defeat in the face of extreme adversity. Today, she is an avid runner (a blade runner) who has run in races including last year’s prestigious TCS 10k race in Bengaluru.

Shalini did not want anyone’s pity or sympathy and wanted to prove to the world that she was destined for bigger things. “I raged. I was angry and hurt and upset. Why did this happen to me? What had I done wrong? I thought it was karma, but I couldn’t think of anything I had done so wrong. But finally, I decided it was time to move on.”

Shalini’s husband Prashanth Chowdappa has been her source of strength and has stood by her through the most traumatic times. She is also indebted to her coach, mentor and guide B.P. Aiyappa who has set goals for her

In a particularly moving passage Shalini shared on facebook with rare candour “When I arrived to have my legs amputated, I was wearing bright purple nail polish on my feet. Might as well go out in style, I figured. A month had passed since my right arm decided to auto-amputate, just dropping off into my brother-in-law’s hands. A few months before that, my left arm had been amputated as well. Now it was time to move on.

I had been a successful 32-year-old, doing well at work, happily married and newly pregnant. I was just back from a vacation in Cambodia and reveling in ticking one off the bucket list when I fell sick with a fever. It all began rather innocently. And then it escalated, and how. Fever became organ failure. Organ failure became a brush with death. Months later, I had lost both my arms and legs to a bacterial infection that the doctor had heard of only in his exam.

From deep within her, Shalini drew on courage that only a true fighter could access.

“And so I ran. In the beginning, it was just to lose weight and get fit, but the challenge was addictive. When I run, I feel like I win over my body. I can look back at Destiny and swear at how wrong it was about me. It didn’t win. I still get to call the shots. My life, my decisions, my dreams; limbs or no limbs.”