By Peter J. Smith

PALAMPUR, India, July 11, 2008 ( – A brilliant Indian engineering graduate bedridden by crippling rheumatoid arthritis for the past 15 years now has new hope for life and says she regrets ever having petitioned for euthanasia.

India’s press agencies report that Seema Sood, 37, is now walking again for the first time since 1993, when advanced rheumatoid arthritis left her completely debilitated and horribly deformed all her joints. Two years ago, she petitioned the President of India for “mercy killing,” a plea she is now thankful went unanswered.

The India Times reports Seema, a gold medalist from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani, underwent total knee replacement (TKR) surgery that lets her walk once more, after the state Himachal government and her alumni association came forward with funds to replace all her joints.

“I regret the letter to the President,” a now hope-filled Seema told the Times.

“Everything was so dark for me earlier, but I am excited about my mobility now and I am confident I will improve.”

Seema told Express India that before the surgery lifted her from despair, she had lived in a world “full of pain for the last 15 years.”

“All I could do was sit or lie down on my bed and take a few faltering, painful steps to go to the toilet. It was a very depressing state of affairs for us and many a times, I would wonder what the point of existing like this is,” she said.

Dr. Manuj Wadhwa, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedic Surgeon, at Fortis Hospital, who performed the TKR surgery on Seema, told Express India that all Seema’s joints – including small joints in her hands and feet – were “deformed, swollen and painful.”

“When Seema first came to Fortis, she was bedridden, bound to the wheel-chair and severely depressed because of the state of her life at such a young age. She weighed only 40 kg,” added Dr Wadhwa. “Her case was complex because she had multiple joint involvements, her bones were severely fragile and her muscles were atomic and weak because she had been immobile for many years. It was a very challenging and rare case.”

However Seema’s attitude has completely changed. “There is a ray of hope for everyone in life, no matter how big the problem he or she may be facing. A positive attitude can be of immense help,” said Seema.

The Times reports that one of Seema’s biggest regrets has been spending the years in dejection instead of finding fulfillment by putting to use her twin masters degrees in engineering sciences and information technology.

Seema now teaches math and chemistry to children of her hometown and will undergo surgeries over the next six months to replace the rest of her joints, including the elbows, shoulders, and hips.

“Don’t give up on life. That’s what I say,” Seema told the Times before returning to her hospital room.

Alison Davis, a coordinator within the British charity Society for the Protection of the Unborn (SPUC), who also suffers with spina bifida, commented that had Seema chosen euthanasia, she would have been robbed of the chance “to benefit from the surgery which revolutionised her life, and no one would have known that life held something better for her in the future.”

“She is not the only vulnerable person who has changed her mind about wanting to die,” said Davis. “I’ve been through the same experience myself.”

“What sick and disabled people who want to die really need is the sort of help and support which Mrs. Sood received both from politicians and her friends. Note well, politicians. Your actions could save a life like Mrs. Sood’s rather than condemning her and others to death.”