• Manan who could not stand up on his own earlier is now winning awards in marathons and dance.
     Manan who could not stand up on his own earlier is now                     
                  winning awards in marathons and dance.

Manan Bhojne, 12, mentally handicapped and epileptic, has managed to battle against all the odds with the help of swimming.

Manan could not stand or even eat with his own hands till a year back. He can now not only walk but has participated in marathons and dancing classes. This could happen because of Ravish Dobani, gym instructor and swimming coach who helped strengthen Manan’s mind and body through swimming.

“Doctors had asked me not to let him swim as the waves can be a risk to children with seizure problems who might get startled. They may also get attacks but I took on this responsibility and had the process go forward,” said Madhvi Hanumanth Bhojane, the proud mother.

“When there is no other option to save your life, you must move. Movement activates brain cells,” she added.

It took two years for Manan to overcome his fear and start walking. He can now carry on basic activities such as eating, brushing teeth, wearing clothes, etc.

Manan, after retaining a proper shape, ran the Hiranandani Estate Marathon and won the first position last year. He also won awards at Shiamak’s dancing classes. “For him, it is a new life. He couldn’t even get up before. You can see the drastic change!” said a teary-eyed Madhvi.

Madhvi who owns a paan shop, recently had a major life event, as her husband too, became paralyzed from the waist. “It was he who had never let me give up on Manan, how could I lose hope now?” said Madhvi, who has planned a similar treatment for her husband.

Saviour in the form of swimming instructor 

Ravish Dobani, gym and swimming instructor, voluntarily trains children with disability for free. He has currently around 20 students with disability problems who he trains for free.

The volunteers first learn how to blow whistle, so that they can breathe properly in the water. They are then asked to throw balls as a training to swim. The volunteers then gradually proceed to more difficult movements.

Dobani said, "I came across the Halliwick theory in the US. The concept was originally developed by fluid mechanics engineer James McMillan in the late 1940s and 1950s to teach physically disabled people to be independent in water. I used the same theory for Manan and it worked.”

Madhvi said that she owes Dobani everything, as he only introduced her to swimming.

How swimming works for epileptic patients 

Madhvi explained the benefits of swimming for an epileptic child. She said, “Swimming is a tiring exercise that keeps children hungry. Their energies are channelised at one place, so they become less fidgety.  Most importantly, swimming teaches coordination skills of hands, legs and neck."

“The thing is, you can’t go on a run for 5 hours but you can swim easily since the gravity pull is less. I put Manan’s head on my palm, which slowly helps in the movement of his limbs and abdomen muscles,” said Dobani.

Dr. Sakshi Bali, a physiotherapist, said, “Swimming or aquatic exercises are usually not suggested for mentally-ill patients because sometimes they tend to get out of control and harm themselves, but depending on the case and under the absolute guidance of an instructor or doctor, it can be followed."