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Even as I walked into the hospital, I could feel the old fears rushing at me, and I was seized by a sudden weakness.

The clean, pristine clinical surroundings always made me feel that way. It still does. My experiences with hospitals have not been too great.

The faint criss-crosses in my abdomen would attest to that. But today, I was here because of a terrible phone call I received from a colleague.

I remember the walk to the Intensive Care Unit, the pungent smell of disinfectants invading my nostrils. The ashen faces of parents and sibling near the door. The room was silent apart from the beep beep sound you often hear in hospitals. I squinted to see the blurred images before me even as soft voices explained what had happened to Charlotte.

As I was allowed in, my palms were damp, and it felt as if a hand had clutched at my heart when I saw the impossibly active girl lying helpless on the hospital bed — a tigress caught in a vicious trap.

A strange viral attack left Charlotte with an inflammation of the spinal cord and rendered her partially paralysed. Neck down, Charlotte could not move her body. The injustice of it all, the irony of it all struck me.

Charlotte was a cheerful student, always eager to learn. She excelled in academics, was an ace basketball player in school and a great debater. Her radiance and positive outlook brought out the best in her and all those around her.

Charlotte was in Grade XI, ready to face the challenges of student life with determination and enthusiasm when tragedy struck.

What should have been the most sorrowful and painful visit, turned out to be — unbelievable though it may sound — one of the turning points of my life.

Charlotte’s motionless body could not defeat her spirit. Her eyes reflected her soul, and the message that came out was clear: “I will not give up. I am going to fight this to its end.”

Her indefatigable will overwhelmed me even as she seemed to ask me if I was there by her side in her struggle. Her amazing spirit left me bewildered. That’s when I instinctively decided that I was going to stand by her, come what may.

As Charlotte went through a battery of tests, physiotherapy and recuperation cycle towards a very slow recovery, a team of my best teachers got ready to support her in any way we could.

Charlotte had to make up for the lost classes. Our team did this not because they sympathised with her, but because we believed in her. Even with the pain and vigorous physiotherapy sessions, Charlotte never gave up.

She became her driving force. Her self-belief was so powerful that we too felt inspired. As she couldn’t use her right hand, she taught herself to write with the left! She found ways to study, even away from the vigilant eyes of her parents, who insisted that she rest and not tire herself.

Today, Charlotte has willed herself to heal almost completely and will be completing her study in Medicine, and it comes as no surprise that she is the pride of her college today.

She is a motivational speaker and a real champion who worked even in adverse conditions.

I hope and wish to see this winning attitude in every child. A winner is someone who has given his best, who tried the hardest to accomplish something. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they accomplished it.

It means that they gave it their best. Teaching students to keep a positive attitude is the foundation.

“You cannot tailor-make the situations in life. But you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit into those situations.” This is the lesson that every educator should focus on, and every student should cultivate.

Vandana Marwaha is principal and director of Delhi Private School in Sharjah.