The writings of Birju Patel

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Death of a childhood friend

On the 22nd of July 2006 one of my childhood friends “Rajiv Shah” passed away after fighting a battle with cancer for the past 4 years. Rajiv was a very handsome young man, he was full of life and he used to make everyone around him laugh. I have known him since we were kids; we used to be very close. Rajiv was in Daytona doing his masters when he found out about his cancer. He went through a series of treatments in Daytona, later on he was admitted to Moffit cancer center in Tampa.

I remember his sister mentioning that he would be in so much pain after his chemotherapy. Rajiv once made a funny comment that he looked like Barney after the therapy, because he used to turn purple. He was such a strong boy; he had the courage to crack jokes about his situation. Only a real man can have such a heart, humor is the best weapon against pain and sorrow. Rajiv had returned to India as a cured person, but after sometime the cancer germs started to return.

Rajiv was being treated in the Tata memorial hospital, Bombay. He went through a new stem cell procedure a few weeks back, and the operation was a success. But life can be so cruel; when everything was going smooth some kind of infection took over his body. The infection proved to be a fatal one, it had spread all over his body and he went into coma. Rajiv gave a good fight and almost had cheated death. I just wish I could have met him before he left this world.

His death had a great impact on me; it has made me realize a few things. Since the accident I have had grudges against many people. I felt betrayed by some of my friends and family members. There is not a day that I don’t think about the friends that I went to Ybor City on the night of accident; those friends just vanished from my life. I am hurt by most of my friends that I was so close to then and now they don’t even keep in touch. I am hurt most by few of my family members that I loved so much; nothing hurts like being ignored by loved ones.

Every single day I would pray to god that someday I could get my vengeance. But today all those feelings have been suppressed. Rajiv’s death has taught me that life is very unpredictable. I just thought of all my supportive family members and friends that have loved me even in my bad times. Rajiv’s death has made me realize to treasure my relations with the loved ones. Instead of wasting my time on thinking about the losers that left me, I rather invest my energy in strengthening my relationships that stood by my side

I am really blessed with some awesome family members and friends, I might not have a large list of friends like I used to have, but what ever I have at the moment is pure gold. I am happy that I am in touch with my real friends through phone, emails, chats, Internet groups and personal meetings. Anyways I had to tell you guys how much I appreciate your love and support; I wish I had a chance to tell this to Rajiv.

I hope you guys can learn something from this story. There are many people suffering from illnesses and sorrows, you should go and support them. I am sure a family member or a friend is going through such ordeal. If you don’t know anyone like that, then you should volunteer towards a cause, it would definitely put a smile on someone’s face. Well many of you might feel that things like this happen and LIFE GOES ON, but believe me life doesn’t go on for the person that is going through the tribulation. Anyways, I just believe in writing down what ever is on my mind and heart, I don’t expect anyone to agree with my ideologies.



Please don’t ignore this….take some time and read it. 17th February 2006
According to Webster dictionary “ Suicide” is “the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind”

I am in a state of total confusion today; I have mixed feeling towards people that try to put an end to their own life. I have a lot of empathy for such people, at the same time I am raged with anger. Today my cousin informed me that one of our family friend’s daughter tried to commit suicide, she set her self on fire, with 80 percent burns she is fighting for her life in a hospital. I am not sure what the reasons are for doing so, but aunt told me she had problems with some family members in her husband’s family.

A few months back one of my friend’s cousin drown himself in a canal. He had lent 2 million rupees (approx. 45k dollars) to a friend, but that friend refused to pay him back. My friend’s cousin was very ashamed to face his father, so he ended up killing himself, before he died he painted “ I am very sorry” on the walls of the canal. The worse part is that a few years ago, his sister hung herself because she failed a subject in her medical school. Can you imagine how devastated those parents would be; both their kids took their own life.

What does trigger a human mind to put an end to one’s life? I can’t even answer that question. I personally think that no human has the right to commit suicide, no matter how big the problem might be. Even in my situation, never has that thought crossed my mind. I am a real fighter; I would never loose my heart. Some times I get tired of being in the wheel chair and missing all the fun that I used to have, but I don’t let that get to me. I do physical therapy everyday; I take my medication on time and I take good care of myself. I am looking for ways to fight it out; I am sitting on net for hours looking for information on stem cell.

If you are depressed, go and talk to someone…. don’t be ashamed of having problems or depression. If you keep all your sorrows within your self, it will build up a big emotional twister in your head. One day will come when you wouldn’t be able to handle that and would end up hurting yourself or someone else. So if you have a problem of any kind, go look for a solution, always remember that if “one door closes, another opens up”.

One more thing, I believe that everyone is entitled to live his or her own life. Let them choose their own education, career and life partner. I am glad that my sister came out of a bad relationship; she decided to do something about her situation. I am proud that she raised her voice and fought against the injustice. Life was not over for her, she found a nice man again, married him and has a lovely daughter. I am guilty of not approving of her new relationship at the beginning, but I am very happy now that she decided to take charge of her life. So please don’t force your ideologies on your loved one, just guide them to follow the right path.

So you guys never ever think about suicide, it’s the biggest crime. When a person takes his or her life, they kill a part of their loved ones too. Why would someone make their loved ones suffer that way? If you want to really die, go fight for you country in a war or volunteer yourself for a medical research. If you cannot find inspiration around you, come to India and take a look at me. I will teach you how to fight bad time, believe me I am a very strong man, and I don’t have respect for people that break down in hard situations.



A letter on my 31st Birthday (26th Dec 2005)

It's my 31st birthday today, I know I look much younger than that....hahahah. For the past two years I used to get very depressed on this day, as you all know that my accident happened while coming back from my Bday celebrations. I thought that 26th December was a very unlucky day for me, but now I realize that there is nothing wrong about this day. My lifestyle was wrong, that’s the reason of the sudden change in my life.

I would love to change the past, but that’s not in my hands and there is no reason for me to regret about things I have already done. In a sense the accident has made me realize many thing about myself. I never knew how strong I was, I bet most people in my place would have been broken by now. I have matured a lot in these 3 years, and I have more control on my emotions. The most important thing is that because of this accident, I got to meet a lot of special people.I think that I have more respect for people now, especially women. Most enduring and forgiving living being on this planet. Man should have self-respect, not ego...because looks, strength and wealth will never be there forever. I could say a lot, but I will just say that I have grown into a more sensitive person. I have no problem in expressing my emotions or feelings, I have learnt that holding back would do no good.

It’s hard to explain you guys how much transformation has taken place in my 8-ounce brain. I think everyone should go thru a painful period to realize the true joy of one’s life. A man's scale of strength is no measured by his biceps or wealth, but by the ability to maintain a positive mental balance in the bad situations.

Anyways I am sure you guys got my point, I stopped so many people from wishing me on this day. But from now on I am not going to do that, and accept all your warm wishes with open arms. I wish all of you a very happy new year in advance……don’t drink and drive nor let anyone else do that either.



The story of my accident

I am writing my story not to glorify the life style I used to have, but it is an honest effort to educated irresponsible people who endanger their and others' lives. It is the story of transformation of an immature boy into responsible adulthood in the past year and half. My life has been very colorful. There is hardly anything I haven't done.

In 1996 when I turned 21 years old, my dad asked me that I should go to USA and learn how to live life the hard way. It was easy for me to come to the states because I was born in New York City. I decided to live in Tampa Bay, where I used to work in a gas station 50 plus hours a week. Bored, I decided to join a university. My life at university of south Florida was awesome. I made a lot of friends. Life was good, playing volleyball every day, cricket on weekends and the nights were like never ending alcohol festival. All this ended on the 26 December 2002, my 28th birthday.

I was very happy and looking forward to enjoy that night. So along with my friend Jignesh Bakarania, I went out clubbing where I drank like a fish. Everyone in the club was offering me drinks and the whole atmosphere was wild. That's all I remember about that night. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by a herd of medical people. One of the nurses told me that I had an accident and my body was paralyzed below the chest. I thought I was dreaming. I asked the doctors how were my friends. I was very worried about him.

According to the report my friend was driving the SUV very fast, which caused it to flip. During this impact I was thrown out of the window of the front seat, and I was found 20 feet away from the car. The doctors told me that I had incurred a spinal cord injury; my spine was compressed from the T-3 to T-5 region. Luckily my friend escaped with just some minor cuts on the face. This event shook my entire family, I realize now that how much pain I had caused them. I didn't realize how serious this injury was; we thought I would get all right in a month or so. Spinal cord injury was a new concept, which we didn't understand in the beginning; even the doctors didn't give us a straight answer when we asked them if I would be able to walk again.
The first month I was not able to get up, due to the heavy blood loss. One day had changed my entire life. I was such an independent person, and suddenly I was entirely dependent on people.

Dr Kumar of Tampa Bay did a fantastic job with my spine. It was an amazing feeling when my Indian, American, Pakistani and Bangladeshi friends came to visit me at the hospital. I was in Tampa general for two months, where I started my physical and occupational therapy. At first this was very hard; I barely had any strength in me. Even small functions of daily life seemed like mammoth targets. My friends used to visit me everyday at my place, used to take me around. But Jignesh was nowhere to be seen. After some time, he went back to his old ways. The shocking thing is that he was charged with a DUI again in March 2004, the cops arrested him at 9 am, unbelievable? You better believe it people. I felt hurt a lot when I heard that, I thought that our incident didn't make any difference to him. Anyways in May 2003 I left Tampa for a new hope.

I went to a very renowned ayurvedic hospital in Kerala, Arya Vaidya Sala that is located in Kottakal. After treatment for six weeks, I flew to Baroda, Gujarat, and my hometown.
I wish I could get well soon, so that I can put a smile on my parents face. They have been through a lot emotionally and financially; I really want to change this situation. I am thankful to all my friends in USA; they have been very loyal and understanding. I would also like to thank Pawan Mehra, who was never there in the good times, but one of the first ones to get in touch with me in the bad times. Pawan has inspired me to write about my story.

Birju Patel