IPOH, Sept 1 — When Wira Sudepja Rabu races, he gets curious onlookers staring at him.
In addition to pushing himself to complete a race like a duathlon, Wira has a carriage in tow.
The carriage is for his 10-year-old daughter Nur Wadihan, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy, and is unable to move her limbs, speak, or feed herself independently.
Known affectionately to her family as Dihan, the child was, on August 26, inducted into the Malaysia Book of Records as the first child with cerebral palsy to complete a duathlon, after finishing the Kerian Incredible Duathlon.
The gruelling race needed Wira to run five kilometres, cycle 32km, and end with another 5km run.
The organisers also helped out, providing Wira with an escort marshal and a specific space for the duo’s race transitions.
“The biggest challenge is making sure she is comfortable. During the Kerian event, her mother didn’t join the race and Dihan noticed. Dihan became slightly upset so I had to keep soothing her.
“At one point, I had to stop and cradle her for a while. Happily, another participant helped to push the carriage along.”
Wira admitted it was tough to finish the race, especially as Dihan and the carriage added another 40 kilogrammes to the weight he had to carry.
However, each race helps to spread the family’s message of unity, togetherness, and the importance to support people with special needs.
Dihan’s entry into the world was nothing short of miracle.
She was born prematurely at eight months via a Caesarean procedure and was without a heartbeat for 10 minutes, and did not breathe.
Doctors told him that she might not live.
Dihan is the second child of Wira and wife Nur Murni Dona Mohd Nordin, who live in Selangor.
The couple also have a 16-year-old daughter.
“You can imagine the effect that had on a baby. Even after her heart started beating, she was placed under critical care.
“There was barely any improvement after three months,” Wira told Malay Mail recently.
He left matters to God and Dihan pulled through, showing resilience and strength to survive her ordeal.
“The doctors now call her ‘miracle baby’,” he said.
For the first three years of her life, her parents were afraid to take her outside, due to her condition and weak immunity.
Nur Murni quit her job, and the family was forced to spend most of their time indoors to care for Dihan.
As Dihan grew stronger, they gradually eased her into the outside world, where they discovered something about their youngest child.
“I used to take her out in a normal stroller around Putrajaya. Whenever she saw cyclists going past, she would start laughing. We realised she liked movement,” he said.
This marked the beginning of the family’s adventure into long-distance cycling that culminated in Dihan’s record-breaking feat.
After seeing her joy, the family decided it was time to give Dihan the experience of cycling in whatever way they could.
Wira began searching online for a carriage that could be attached to a bicycle, allowing her to feel the wind and movement that she enjoyed.
They had to purchase the carriage from overseas and it cost RM3,000.
“We needed to make sure the seating provided a comfortable posture for her, and I also got a small fan to keep her cool.”
The carriage is convertible and attaches to a bicycle. It can also be used as a carriage that can be pushed along during a jog.
In 2015, the family participated in a Kuala Lumpur car-free day, allowing Dihan to cycle along with her parents and older sister.
“Honestly, when the carriage first came, it was like getting a Ferrari. I even teared up a bit,” Wira said.
Since then, Wira and his family have joined more than 100 cycling and running events, creating a buzz wherever they go.
Dihan will be seated in the carriage, while her father cycles on, constantly checking up on her well-being.
“People say I need strength to pull and push the carriage during the races. But I get my strength from her.
“I think of the strength she showed to overcome the odds when she was in intensive care as a baby. She lends me her strength to keep going.”