CALGARY - Sudarshan Gautam has a long road ahead of him before next year's historic attempt to summit Mount Everest. The Nepalese-born Mount Royal University student, who has no arms, will be cruising from one Canadian coast to the other to raise cash, awareness and, perhaps, the pulses of other drivers as he makes the journey behind the wheel using just his feet. The inspiring amputee, who is licensed to drive and has done so on asphalt in 29 countries, is planning to pull off the feat as early as this summer. Donations generated through his adventure will be split among a mountaineering program for the disabled, offered through the Vancouver-based Tetra Society, and his own endeavour to scale the world's highest peak, planned for next March. "I like to spread the message that disability is not inability and I hope it will help for our mission to raise (money) for those things," said Gautam, 30, who will meet with sponsors Tuesday to finalize a start date for the cross-country tour. "I have been planning this for next month, but because of the federal election the sponsor wants to move the project a couple months later."
Gautam, who hails from the rural Ramecchap district of Nepal, lost his arms at 14 while vacationing with his family in Kathmandu. He was flying a kite that became entangled with overhead power lines. Believing the wire was insulated, he used a piece of iron to dislodge the kite. The resulting jolt badly damaged his limbs, which doctors had no choice but to remove. The physical disadvantage has proven to be of little consequence to Gautam. In 2005, he earned a bachelor's degree in management and commerce before moving on to his next challenge - scaling the 5,372-metre Mount Yala using his teeth, feet and the aid of sherpas. Through the Mount Everest expedition, Gautam hopes to raise $1 million for Nepalese orphans and disabled persons. I was born a normal child in Gunshi, Bhauduri-1 in Ramechhap district of Nepal. An average student, I enjoyed sports, particularly, volleyball and soccer while at school. Apart from sports, I felt excited by scientific experiments. Like any child I was full of dreams, hopes, aspirations and passion. The first few of my dreams were to become a pilot or a political leader. A tragic accident, however, turned my whole life upside down. In June 1994, I arrived in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, on vacation. One day, I was flying a kite from a rooftop. The kite got stuck on the overhead electric wires. I did not realize that there were some naked wires. What’s even worse: I was totally oblivious to the fact that the wires carried an electricity of 11,000 volts. Naive as I was at the time, I used an iron rod to free the kite. I always shudder to think what happened after that.
My father and uncle took me immediately to the Nepal Army Hospital. When I regained consciousness, I found that both my hands were completely burnt. After a few days at the hospital, doctors amputated both my arms. The unthinkable consequences of the accident led to the amputation of not just of my dreams but my whole future! My life became a burden onto myself.
The days and weeks after my arms were amputated seem like dreadful memories. It felt as if I was engulfed in total darkness without the smallest glimmer of light. I knew I was alive, yet I was no more alive than a dead body. I could no longer do things that I did earlier. All my friends deserted me. I felt completely isolated from the world. I saw all my dreams shattering into pieces right before my eyes. I returned to my village after eight months of medication. When I reached my village, my neighbors and even my close friends laughed at my condition and others felt pity at my disability. In my own village, I was dubbed a “poor boy.” Meanwhile, many of my friends and classmates completed their School Leaving Certificate exams. The villagers congratulated them on their success and expressed pity for me, the “poor boy.” Their pity hurt...
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