Running for his Second Life
Sikh amputee known as ‘Indian blade runner’ finds faith, friends in Oklahoma
A surgeon took one look at his injuries and sent Maj. Devender Pal Singh’s broken body to a makeshift mortuary near a battlefield.
But another doctor saw life instead of death.
Singh, 39, considers this his rebirth of sorts.
That’s why this ambitious amputee from India is running for his life — his second life.
Known as the “Indian blade runner,” he’s been running marathons for 15 years.
Singh was invited to the Hanger Clinic, 4301 N Classen, by prosthetists who wanted to fit him with a better prosthetic for long-distance running. Clinic manager Carol Wade saw a video clip of the gregarious runner and learned he had trouble with his prosthesis while running the marathons he loves.
Singh said he readily accepted the clinic’s offer to help but made sure, as an observant Sikh, that he connected first with a local gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship.
Connect he did.
“When it comes to hospitality — the love and comfort — I don’t find myself away from home,” he said, smiling, before a run around Lake Hefner.
Sarbjit “Sabi” Singh, 69, a leader of the Sikh Gurdwara of Oklahoma and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, said the Sikh community was excited to host the runner.
He said gurdwaras in India typically have rooms available for visiting Sikhs, but Oklahoma’s gurdwara is nontraditional and has no such space.
Instead, Lakhwinder Singh Multani, 38, an Edmond Sikh, gave the visiting runner a complimentary room at one of the metro hotels he owns. Later, members of the local Sikh community invited him into their homes.
Several local Sikhs said they were impressed when they heard Devender Pal Singh’s story, how he had been left for dead all those years ago in a field hospital — and yet is alive and well and making a difference in the lives of other Indian amputees.
“Even if he was not in the Indian Army, here is someone who has done so much for India. We will do anything we can to help him,” said Raj K. Rana, 50, of Oklahoma City.
‘This is a challenge’
Devender Pal Singh said he sustained severe injuries in 1999 when his Indian Army unit guarded the border between India and Pakistan during what became known as the Kargil War in 1999.
He said he was 25 at the time and had learned that anyone within eight yards of a mortar bomb typically died. That’s why he dove to the ground to try and minimize his injuries when one of the bombs landed about a yard and a half from him one summer day.
Carried to the field hospital by his men, Singh eventually awoke to find that his life had been spared — but it would never be the same. The young major suffered partial hearing loss in both ears and required two stomach operations, plus the partial removal of his intestines. Doctors told him shrapnel was permanently embedded in his ribs and other parts of his body. After about a month, he weighed about 60 pounds because of the severity of his wounds, he said.
Singh said most significantly, gangrene had set in his right toe, and doctors eventually had to amputate his right leg. He said he was hopeful about the challenges sure to come his way, feeling that this was the start of his new life — a second life, so to speak.
“I don’t know, but maybe I was destined to come to this side of my life,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I didn’t think of it as a disability. I thought, OK, this is a challenge.”
‘There is no limit’
Chad Simpson, Hanger Clinic manager and a certified prosthetist, said his goal during Singh’s recent visit was fitting him with a prosthetic leg that allowed him the flexibility he needed for marathon runs. Simpson said the clinic was basically creating a new knee that would allow for greater flexibility.
Simpson said the prosthetic leg he had been using was better for sprints than marathons because of the flexibility issue.
Simpson and Singh worked together on the project, sometimes thinking they had made progress, only to find the modifications they made were not as helpful as they had hoped. Toward the end of Singh’s visit, Simpson was able to fit him with a prosthesis that will help him run miles and miles more comfortably.
Singh said he was not a runner before his leg was amputated but challenged himself to become one as a way to inspire him beyond his war injuries.
“There is no limit,” he said.
“I feel that if you take every failure as a test of perseverance, it becomes easier for you to try again.”
With that in mind, Singh said he never really crawled while learning to move about without his right leg — he walked.
These days, he is inspiring amputees across India with his motivational presentations and his support group called The Challenging Ones. He said the group includes more than 250 amputees — he calls them “Challengers” — and several are literally following his footsteps by becoming amputee runners.
“I want them to shine,” he said, grinning.
Sarbjit Singh said the runner is a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit and the younger man’s faith in God.
“As he said, he was dead and he was reborn, and this is what he made out of it,” Sarbjit Singh said.
“This could have ended very differently for a different person. He had a very strong spirit, and through his faith in God, he realized that there was something higher than himself in all of this.”
Courtesy of www.newsok.com//