‘He’s so determined,’ says nurse of Halifax doctor in crash that left him a quadriplegic

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Dr. Amit Rahalkar knew he was in big trouble as he sat slumped over his steering wheel, his car resting in a field of rose bushes after being T-boned at a stop sign on Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail.

He couldn’t feel anything below his neck, and he knew the prognosis wasn’t good.

Rahalkar suffered a cervical spine fracture and a spinal cord injury that made him a quadriplegic.

It was Aug. 1, 2014. Rahalkar thought his career was over.

Dr. Amit Rahalkar

This picture, which hangs in Dr. Amit Rahalkar’s bedroom, was taken a month before the 2014 car crash in Cape Breton that fractured his cervical spine and injured his spinal cord. (CBC)

“You train for years and years and in a matter of seconds, you think it’s all going to be taken away,” he says.

‘She basically acts … as my hands’

More than two years later, Rahalkar, now 33 years old, rolls into his shared office at Halifax’s Victoria General hospital in a motorized wheelchair. He connects to a voice-controlled program that allows him to access patient records.

Dr. Amit Rahalkar

‘You train for years and years and in a matter of seconds, you think it’s all going to be taken away,’ says Rahalkar. (Robert Short/CBC)

Rahalkar is working on his fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism. He was entering his second year when the crash happened.

Rahalkar does all his patient interviews and reviews files with medical staff. Nurse Allie Lech works with him to do the physical exams and takes written notes.

“She basically acts … as my hands,” says Rahalkar.

The funding for Lech’s position is a joint effort between the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dalhousie University and Rahalkar’s insurance company.

“He’s got so much confidence,” says Lech. “He’s so determined.”

Dr. Amit Rahalkar Halifax

Rahalkar uses voice recognition software to access patient files at Halifax’s Victoria General hospital. (Robert Short/CBC)

While Rahalkar was in the ICU and couldn’t speak, plans were being made to ensure he could keep working.

“It was a conversation that was had between my parents and my program director and everybody,” says Rahalkar. “And my partner.”

Jeff MacPherson Halifax

Rahalkar’s husband, Jeff MacPherson, is his primary caregiver. (Robert Short/CBC )

‘He wasn’t going to lose any more than he had to’

Rahalkar and his partner, Jeff MacPherson, were dating for eight months when the crash happened.

MacPherson was in the passenger seat. He has back pain and shoulder issues because of the accident, but is otherwise fine.

“There were days when I thought that he was going to walk out,” says Rahalkar.

The opposite happened.

Jeff MacPherson and Amit Rahalkar wedding

Rahalkar and MacPherson married in Halifax in July. (Brent McCombs)

MacPherson proposed to Rahalkar not even a month after he was released from the ICU and became his primary caregiver.

They were married July in Halifax.

MacPherson tears up when he recalls the night of the crash.

“I just had put it in my head that … I was going to make it as normal as I could,” he says.

“And he wasn’t going to lose any more than he had to.”

Wedding day Amit and Jeff

Rahalkar’s mother Dr. Mangal Rahalkar, on the left, recently retired as a family doctor in Ontario. She inspired her son to become a physician. (Brent McCombs)

‘That will be quite the day’

Rahalkar’s parents have also been a huge help to the couple since the crash.

His mother inspired him to go into medicine in the first place. She recently retired as a family doctor in Ontario.

This Aug. 1 — three years to the day he feared a crash had destroyed his dream — Rahalkar hopes to finally finish his fellowship.

“That will be quite the day,” he says.

Continued:  

‘He’s so determined,’ says nurse of Halifax doctor in crash that left him a quadriplegic

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