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“One cannot change the situation just by crying or worrying … one has to take real steps toward changing it.”

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By Rupali Deshpande Awekar

It was exactly twelve years back, in May 2005, when my husband, my life, had his first heart attack. We were in India then. I was a new mother of a six-month-old baby. I had never felt so helpless and shattered before.

Our life had been running fine: both of us nearing thirty, both still working hard in our careers, both of us super ambitious to make it big in life. I was an Ayurvedic doctor with my own clinic, and he was a chartered accountant working in a company. As a nursing mother I was on maternity leave, planning to resume work at the clinic soon. Everything was going as per plan and then the unfortunate happened.

It was morning time; I was with my baby and my husband was getting ready for work. He complained to me of severe pain in his left hand and he kept pouring hot water over it, hoping to feel better. When I got a bit free, I came to see him. To my shock, he was sweating profusely. Being a doctor, I instantly knew something was terribly wrong! I got out my bike, packed up the baby, and carried my husband to the nearby hospital for an ECG. It confirmed what I had thought. We immediately took an auto rickshaw to a bigger hospital. Time was running out, and we could not afford to wait for an ambulance during morning rush hour.

So far I had been courageous, but my fight against adversity had just started.

We reached hospital in fifteen minutes and my husband was immediately put into the intensive care unit. So far I had been courageous, but my fight against adversity had just started. He was in ICU for more than a week, with the initial three days being most crucial and life threatening. Those were the worst days of my life. He came home after ten days and there started our journey toward building resilience.

I had no idea how I was supposed to face this adversity. Our family supported us by not letting us become dependent on them, so we had to kick in. Doctors suggested we change place, and luckily, my husband got a better job in a different city, so we shifted there to start a new life. I decided to focus on my family’s needs and put my career by the side for some time. For the next two years I was obsessed with improving my husband’s health and looking after my son, but slowly I sank into depression, finding myself with a lot of insecurities. My future looked dark ... all of my dreams seemed shattered … my health deteriorated.

My husband is my biggest support, the source of positive energy and charm in my life. He had built resilience before the heart attack by facing his mother’s death at a young age. During these times, he stood with me like a rock that I could completely depend on. I don’t know how he managed to face this adversity himself, but there he was, helping me to cope with my depression and loss of confidence. He started pushing me to get back on my career track and to make social connections. I started building resilience.

Whenever I am in trouble, I always remember my mother’s words: “One cannot change the situation just by crying or worrying … one has to take real steps toward changing it!” Instead of worrying about the future and if I would face the same adversity again, I needed to first make myself financially secure and push myself out of this dark miserable life for my son.

“One cannot change the situation just by crying or worrying … one has to take real steps toward changing it!” 

To begin, I joined a course that would teach me how to face an interview. On day one, I realized that I was far better than other students—that gave me a little boost in confidence. From that day onward, I pushed myself very hard, completed the course, enrolled in another course to give myself new skill sets in clinical research, and got my first job! This was exactly three years after the unfortunate incident, and then there was no turning back. I was standing on my own; I again started thinking that my life was in my control.

I started to look for the positive in that unfortunate incident. What if I was not present when this happened? What if I had lost my husband? What if I had not come out of my depression? I started to appreciate what I had, started to appreciate small pleasures in every day, started to enjoy life again.

I kept on improving my skill sets, switching jobs over a period of time. I took some calculated risks, made lots of friends, family friends. Today we are in the United Kingdom supporting each other in full-time careers and living life to the fullest.

But disaster hits when you least expect it.

My husband had another heart attack two years ago, but this time I was prepared to be strong enough to support myself and my family. Our employers generously granted us some time to fight back. Most importantly, I had a positive mindset, but I had a new challenge too. I needed to help my ten-year-old son face this unfortunate incident in his life and to show him the positive side of it. I hope I have succeeded.

Today we are back on track again. My solid rock support is with me as always, physically and mentally fit like never before. Our journey toward building resilience continues.

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