Updated: May 12, 2017 09:58 AM GMT
Irani Baroi, a Bangladeshi Christian nurse, overcame her disabilities to serve people. (ucanews.com photo)
When Irani Baroi contracted an unusually high fever in December 1996, she didn't know the illness would change her life forever.
During her sickness, she collapsed and seriously damaged her spinal cord, leaving her arms and legs paralyzed. Despite the efforts of doctors and treatment in Bangladesh and India, she never recovered the use of her legs.
Irani was already a registered nurse with 10 years experience when the disaster happened. She had been married for seven years and had two daughters.
"I thought my life had come to an end and my nursing days were over," Baroi told ucanews.com.
She was heartbroken and depressed but did not completely lose hope as she wanted to continue to serve sick people.
She was admitted to the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed, a medical charity based in Savar near Dhaka, for long-term therapeutic treatment. Slowly, she learned how to work confined within a wheelchair and obtained a diploma in paralysis and rehabilitation in 2000.
After her recovery, she wanted to return to nursing and the government reinstated her at the General Hospital in Narayanganj district, near Dhaka, where she remains today.
Her difficulties are now a distant memory and she finds happiness in helping people.
"My colleagues are very supportive and I try to help them in every possible way I can. Sometimes, extremely poor patients come and I pay for their treatment. After they recover, people come to thank and bless me and it is great source of joy," said Irani, a member of the Bangladesh Baptist Church.
Irani Baroi meets patients at the General Hospital in Narayanganj district near Dhaka. She continues to help people despite being confined to a wheelchair. (ucanews.com photo)
Praise from colleagues
Baroi's dedicated work has earned praise from her colleagues.
"Although she uses a wheelchair, Baroi has overcome her difficulties with sincerity and honesty. We try to be supportive and sympathetic to her every way we can," said Lutfa Begum, acting nurse-in-charge at the hospital.
"Her life and works are an example and inspiration to people with disabilities. She is not just an efficient nurse but she is also a good-hearted person," she said.
Due to her inability to move upstairs, hospital authorities allow her to work on the ground floor and keep her from night duties.
"Sister Irani is an outstanding woman with unbelievable courage and confidence. She is not just an inspiration for people with disabilities but for all oppressed and marginalized women," said Doctor Asaduzzaman, resident medical officer at the hospital.
"If people with disabilities are given due support they can also excel like Sister Irani by working hard and utilizing their potential and skills," he said.
Irani Baroi and her husband Simon Sikder at their residence in Narayanganj district near Dhaka. Irani says she could not have overcome her disability without the support of her family. (ucanews.com photo)
A supportive family
Baroi gave full credit for her success to her family.
"My family was there for me throughout good and bad times so I was able to transform my struggles into success. My life would have ended if I didn't have a supportive family," she said.
In 1996, when Baroi was first paralyzed, her husband, Simon Sikder used to work for Christian charity World Vision. He left the job to take care of the family, especially Baroi and their two daughters, aged three and one.
Life was full of difficulties but Sikder was determined to take up the challenge. "Many people, including my parents, asked me why I didn't leave her and remarry but I didn't pay heed. I told them Christians marry once in a lifetime and I must remain faithful and dutiful to her until I die," he said.
"My daughters and I have supported and served her all these days and she can spread love and service to many people. We are happy and living in peace as we have overcome our difficulties together," he added.
Today, the family mostly runs on Baroi's income and she pays for the living costs and education of her daughters. The eldest daughter Esther is a registered government nurse while their younger daughter Mitu studies business administration at university.
Irani said she wanted to be a teacher in her childhood but changed her aim when she saw Catholic nuns working in a missionary hospital in her home village.
"I thank God for taking up nursing because it's a great profession that helped me spread love and compassion to many people. More and more Christians should take up nursing to follow in the footsteps of the great servant Jesus," she said.
International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12 to mark the contributions nurses make to society.
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