It was 2012 and Karma Lama was looking forward to enjoying his winter vacation. He was well until he appeared the examination for class VII. Soon he began feeling numb in his fingers, which then spread to his hands and legs.

Instead of enjoying the holidays, he had to make numerous visits to the hospital. Within a year he became paralysed and bedridden. It has been five years since he last went to school. He is 21 today.

Karma’s stepmother Bari Pradhan, 37 is his full-time attendant. She said that all possible medical tests have been conducted but he could not be cured. However, health workers at the national referral hospital told the parents that he could possibly be treated if referred abroad.

The referral was not possible because Karma Lama does not have a citizenship identity card. “He is continuously under medication but has not improved a bit,” she said. “I look after him like an infant, from feeding to taking to the bathroom.”

His medical history states that it is a case of cerebellar or vestibular ataxia, a problem in the part of his brain that coordinates and regulates muscular activity that resulted in the loss of full control of bodily movements.

As Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan observed the international day for persons with disability in Gelephu LSS yesterday, persons like Karma Lama and his family were applauded for empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

Another special needs person who attended the day was Nabin Pradhan. He was appreciated with a certificate for taking courage in attending school to learn to read and write. He was disabled by birth. However, with medication, he has improved to walk and speak.

In a short speech Nabin delivered fluently in English, he said he enjoys school and attended full-time classes in 2016. He had to soon stop because of living away from the school and transportation difficulties. “I made so many friends and learnt many things and got a lot of love in the school,” he said.

Besides reading and writing, Nabin also learnt singing, IT skills and participated in sport. “I wish to come to school and urge anyone who has disabled children at home to send them to school. We learn so many things here,” he said.

Gelephu LSS has a Special Needs Education classroom, which has at least 33 students.

Sarpang dzongdag Karma Galay said it is indeed in the schools where social acceptance begins for persons living with a disability.

“As we go on living with persons with disability, our policy makers and planners should be reminded to develop disability friends infrastructure,” he said.

Nirmala Pokhrel   | Gelephu