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‘My Family Refused to Vaccinate Me Against Polio; I Was 10-Month-Old When I Stopped Walking’

‘My Family Refused to Vaccinate Me Against Polio; I Was 10-Month-Old When I Stopped Walking’

Rajasthan's Dr Shravan Chaudhary lost his ability to walk because of polio. Despite hardships, nothing could stop him from becoming a doctor and helping change attitudes toward polio vaccination in rural India.

When former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984, the news sparked riots across India soon after. The night took a toll on the lives of many innocent families, including that of a 10-month-old baby, Shravan Chaudhary.

Confined in his village home in Rajasthan, he had a fever so high that it could not be measured on any instrument. And due to the nationwide strike, his family could not take him to the nearest hospital which was 20 km away.

“That night, I lost movement in one of my lower limbs. My mother was scared; she had heard that many children in the neighbourhood had been affected by polio. And her fears came true. By the second night, both my limbs stopped working,” he says.

At a young age, Shravan lost his ability to walk.

Over the years, his parents took him to numerous hospitals and tried everything but the damage was irreversible. It was these hospital visits that motivated Shravan to pursue medicine and raise awareness of polio disease.

However, chasing this dream wasn’t easy.

“I was disqualified from appearing for the Pre-Medical Test (PMT) due to the 80 percent disability in my lower limbs. I had to move the Rajasthan High Court. Through their intervention, I enrolled for MBBS. After five years of devotion and hard work, I became a doctor!” says the 45-year-old.

Thereafter, he worked as a medical officer in rural Rajasthan and worked to raise awareness about polio. “I would tell my story to parents who are still afraid of vaccines, even decades after the launch of the campaign. We have a long way to go to fight this fear, and I am going to do my best,” he says.

Edited by Padmashree Pande.

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