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Exactly a month ago from today, 28-year-old Ra.One animator Charu Khandal met with an accident when an allegedly inebriated driver of a Honda City hit the autorickshaw she was travelling in with a friend and her younger sister. It left her indefinitely paralysed neck down.
Khandal, who was rushed to Kokilaben hospital in Andheri, a western Mumbai suburb, has been in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit ever since.
This has been the hardest month of Charu's life.
She suffered from lung infection and was put on and off ventilators, has been going through aggressive physiotherapy sessions and is struggling to retain her diminishing optimism.
But all that hard work and resilience is paying off.
Charu's younger sister Ritu, who was also injured in the accident, informs us, "She's been put off ventilators and can breathe with some help. The next step is to get her to breathe normally, on her own."
But the biggest triumph for the Khandal family and friends so far has been the fact that Charu has regained sensation in her shoulders and can move her elbows a bit with some help.
The struggle is far from over though. "The real fight begins now," Ritu says. "All this while, she couldn't feel anything since she was paralysed and under heavy medication. But at present, she's in severe pain. Doctors administer painkillers in measured amounts but that doesn't really help."
The pain keeps Charu up all night.
Ritu, who comes back to the hospital after work and gives her older sister company at night, is up too. Neha, their youngest sister who has come from Pondicherry where she's doing her Masters in French, also takes turns in the hospital.
"We have our time slots when we stay with Di (Charu). Mum's with her during the day and I take over at night. Sagar (Thacker, Charu's fiance) is here everyday too. Dad returned to Jaipur a few days ago," informs Ritu.
It's a bittersweet phase in the family's indefinite ordeal. Charu gaining some movement may be a huge morale booster for them but Charu's optimism is slowly diminishing. "Being bed-ridden and in acute pain for an entire month will do that to you," Ritu says.
The Khandals are now hoping that Charu will be shifted out of the ICU soon -- may be in a week -- and recover fully. Their daughter may be in pain but they are happy that she can finally move to some extent.
"She doesn't realise it but we've seen her in a much worse condition. It's a relief," Ritu says with a smile.
Khandals have spent over Rs 8 lakh for the treatment and they don't know how much more will be spent. The ICU and physiotherapy sessions are the major costs that they have to bear for a while. And that is just the advance deposit.
The money that Shah Rukh Khan promised hasn't come in either. He'd held Charu's distraught mother's hands and told her that she should just focus on her daughter and not think about the costs.
"We are in constant touch with the people over at Red Chillies Entertainment (Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan's production house). Once we have a rough idea of how much more we need, we might think of approaching them."