Virali Modi is a Motivational Speaker, Disability Rights Activist, and Model. When Virali was just a 13-year-old she told her mother she wanted to be a star. Born and brought up in the USA, she soon got featured in a national commercial with Pepsi Co. A year later, Virali returned from a monsoon vacation in India, quite excited for her holidays in her motherland. But here she contracted a mysterious fever that resulted in her getting in and out of emergency rooms in Pennsylvania hospitals, where she was declared dead — thrice at different times. Virali Modi now 26, is a disability activist based in Mumbai, India. She often recounts her struggle to be alive and doing something meaningful in life. Her mom Pallavi Modi has always been her source of strength and courage.
Doctors asked Virali’s Mom to let her die a week before her birthday
In 2006, Virali missed a chance to star in a Pepsi commercial due to a sudden bout of ill health in August. By September her fever and headaches turned into hallucinations. Paracetamols would only check the fever for a while. Surprisingly, all her tests like the blood and urine tests, optical checkups and CT scans all came clean. Her condition got critical on September 11 and she had to be admitted to Penn State’s Hershey Milton Medical Centre. When even her MRI results didn’t give the doctors any clue about her real illness. Virali was taken in for a spinal tap, after which she suffered a seizure, vomited and her heart beats stopped. That was the first time Virali Modi was declared dead. Repeated CPR by doctors brought back her heartbeat, but since Virali had stopped breathing so she had to be put on a ventilator. The situation remained critical over the next few days and Virali Modi had to be administered a second spinal tap, following which she slipped into a coma. But Virali’s mom was still hopeful. She didn’t give up. All their relatives gathered to see Virali (thinking she was about to die!). The doctors started considering pulling the ventilator’s plug thinking there was no chance of her coming back to life. Virali’s mom was asked for her consent to remove ventilator on September 21st, eight days before her 15th birthday!
“Keep her alive till the 29th, I want to celebrate my daughter’s birthday,” Virali’s mom pleaded with the doctors.
The doctors resisted, then relented. On September 29, 2006, at nearly 3:05 pm (Virali’s birth time) all of her family members surrounded her, singing the happy birthday song. Her room was decorated with balloons and her family even brought a birthday cake for Virali.
Just as her father held her hand to mimic cake cutting, Virali opened her eyes!
Taken aback the nurse ran out of the room, and the doctors had hugged her mom. “She is alive only because of you, Mrs Modi,” they said. A number of tests followed and her family was warned that she might have lost her memory, but Virali proved them all wrong. Virali defied all odds. She survived.
I was looking down at a girl who looked like me- Virali Modi
Virali has some memories of her tough time in the hospital.
I remember looking down at the hospital bed, observing, as if from a distance, this girl who looked so much like me, lying still amidst tubes and grieving relatives. Virali Modi
Virali had tears rolling down her eyes every time a family member talked to her. But at the same time, she sensed that she was healing. After she recovered, she had a dream where Virali saw everything that was happening while she was supposed to be in the coma, which is why her memory is so definite. Her first words after she came out of the coma, was “Daddy”. She remembers saying those words, she remembers waking up. She believes in herself. She learned to hold onto faith from her encounter with death. Her mother had faith that Virali would survive.
Virali didn’t just survive death and got a second chance at life but she also survived social discrimination against disabled people like herself (Virali is half paralyzed and wheelchair bound), molestation and harsh remarks from her close friends and family who didn’t want to be in touch with her as they thought she has become a burden on them. She is a living example of miracles that happen in one’s life with faith, love, and willingness to survive! Hats off to this Wonderful Woman!
June 20, 2018, Virali was felicitated by the CSR committee of IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry for her work in making the Indian Railways more accessible and honoring her position of a disability rights activist.
- Virali Modi has been associated with disability rights campaigns like #mytraintoo and #rampmyrestaurant. She was a speaker at TEDx Talks 2017
- Received Women’s Achiever Award by Delhi Commission for Women
- Honored with Rising Star of India Award by We Are The City
- Named among top 100 the most influential and inspirational women by BBC World Wide in 2017
- Received Bharat Prerna Award 2018
- Did Modeling for Being Human high-end clothing brand