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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Father speaks at service after taking son off life support

When Backinathan Aruldas arrived in America after a tear-filled, two-day flight from Chennai, India, he went straight to Shands at UF.

His son, Michael Backinathan, an international UF graduate student who suffered brain damage after nearly drowning, was kept alive at Shands by artificial ventilating machines for more than two weeks.

"They told me his brain was dead. I said, 'Doctor, I'm a Christian. Give me some time to pray to my God,'" Aruldas said during a speech at Backinathan's memorial service Tuesday night.

While he waited for an answer, Aruldas said he refused a mat for his knees. He wanted to feel the cold, hard floor beneath him, he said.

He didn't want coffee or food, and he accepted only hot water.

"I never felt hungry. I never felt for sleep. That's how much I love my son," he said.

At about 2 a.m. Monday, Aruldas said he realized what he needed to do.

He signed the papers.

Doctors removed Backinathan from the machines at about 4 p.m. Monday, and he was gone.

"My son is no more," Aruldas said. "This was planned by God. I ought to accept it. My son's departed soul will be resting."

Aruldas said he last spoke to his son on Sept. 8.

He said Backinathan told him he was going swimming and would talk to him later. Then Backinathan hung up for the last time.

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UF spokesman Steve Orlando said Backinathan, 24, and his three roommates were hanging out by the pool at Arbor Park Apartments on Sept. 8 when one roommate noticed Backinathan was underwater.

None of the four could swim, Orlando said.

After trying to bring Backinathan to the surface, the roommates tried to find help.

By the time he was pulled out of the pool, Backinathan had been underwater for about seven minutes, Orlando said. He was immediately taken to Shands.

Kim Gokhale, vice president of graduate affairs for the Indian Student Association, said she called Backinathan's parents to tell them of his accident.

Gokhale said Backinathan's mother doesn't know he is dead. She said Aruldas would wait until he went back to India to tell her.

It will take several days to get Backinathan's body back home, and Aruldas doesn't want his wife to be alone in her grief for that long, Gokhale said.

Vasudha Narayanan, director of the Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, said many students at the center are in a state of shock.

"You wear your helmet, you wear your safety belt, but you don't ever expect anything this tragic to happen," Narayanan said.

As her eyes filled with tears, Narayanan said she was given a new perspective on Backinathan's death after hearing something his father said.

"Yesterday, after he signed the papers and after Michael passed away, he said a spontaneous prayer. He thanked God for the gift of Michael," she said. "His life was indeed a gift."

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