Equity takes courage
In 2010, I was halfway through medical school. Life was good. Little did I know that everything will change forever on 31 January 2010. All it took was a few seconds.
After a car accident caused by what we think was aquaplaning, I sustained a spinal cord injury with quadriplegia. My fingers and everything below the chest changed function.
I had no idea what life was like for someone with a spinal cord injury. It's not just a paralysis, but a host of other physical things like respiratory function and even skin responses. Regulating the temperature becomes difficult. On top of that, there’s social fallout. Families fall apart. Education and employment becomes difficult. I experienced a lot of the challenges personally.
Having said all that, I'm still grateful for this journey. I've met amazing people. I've had incredible experiences. I've travelled to countries where there are nowhere near the structures that we're afforded in Australia. I hopefully have the opportunity to contribute something to the world.
Therapies for spinal cord injury is one of the things that I’ve had the chance to explore. Over the last decade, there've been promising advances using thought controlled rehabilitation, drug therapy, electrical stimulation, and robot assisted rehabilitation in some combination. We've seen people with chronic paralysis able to move their limbs following therapy. This was previously unseen. Our work now focuses on building those lines of thought. We have collaborators from around the world, including Harvard University.
We are pushing forward as a spinal cord injury community in multiple fronts. It’s important that we collaborate across the world, no matter what avenues of research we undertake. It leads to a better use of resources, quick progress, and a united front. We need to work together.
Teamwork has also allowed me to progress a career as a doctor. I've been lucky enough to have seniors, colleagues, and academics who have believed in the journey. They invested much personal and professional effort in me. Every day, I work to make that investment worthwhile. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to acknowledge the people who played a part in that journey - https://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/australian-of-the-year-awards/2021/dinesh-palipana Thanks to them, I work in the busiest emergency department in Australia while pursuing research interests at the university.
I learned a very important thing in this journey. The frameworks that we have to protect the rights of people, with a disability or not, mean nothing if we don’t protect them. It took courage from a lot of people to stand with me when I struggled with some of these things. As hard as it may be, we have to make the choice every day to fight for what's right. Most importantly, we need to fight for each other. If we sit by and watch our sacred values compromised, we compromise ourselves.
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