“I certainly never imagined practising medicine with quadriplegia.” It’s the humble words of the incredible lawyer and doctor, Dinesh Palipana OAM. Dr Palipana is only the second person with quadriplegia to graduate as a doctor in Australia and the first with spinal cord injury.
In 2010, Brisbane local Palipana was half way through his medical studies when he was involved in a life-altering car accident.
“When my Nissan X-Trail eventually stopped rolling, I looked around in shock,” Palipana recalled to the ABC. “The car was destroyed. My favourite white T-shirt was soaked in blood. Worst of all, I couldn’t feel or move my legs. I tried to open the door. My fingers weren’t working.”
“The gravity of what happened dawned on me. My spinal cord had probably taken a hit.”
After more than 7 months recovery in Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, Palipana made the daring and admirable decision to continue his medical studies.
“It was a risk, and I was terrified.”
Dr Palipana went on to complete his residency, and now practises as a doctor like any other. He has learned ways to hold his stethoscope, and feel someones abdomen with the part of his hand that has retained sensation.
“I had to figure out how to do a lot of things without my fingers. One of my biggest triumphs was learning to insert an intravenous cannula, albeit with a little bit of help. This is a small step for most doctors and nurses, but a giant step for me.”
Dr Palipana’s story has become a beacon of inspiration as he now dedicates much of his time to philanthropic causes, using his platform to raise spinal cord injury (SCI) awareness.
Currently, Palipana is teaming up with the global Wings for Life initiative. Wings for Life is a unique, global running event for all abilities, where thousands of participants start running at the exact same time world wide, with the aim to raise funds for spinal cord injury research. 100 per cent of the starting fee goes to spinal cord research to help find a cure.
STATS ON SPINAL CORD INJURY IN AUSTRALIA AT A GLANCE
- 81% of SCIs in people under 65 are the result of traumatic causes, such as road accidents, falls and sports injuries
- Across the age groups, a total of 20,800 Australians are living with a SCI
- Non-traumatic causes such as tumours and degenerative disorders are the leading cause of SCIs in over 65s
- 33% of SCIs result in severe injury leading to no movement in the affected parts of their body
- Spinal cord injuries cost the economy a total of $74.5bn in personal and health care, lost productivity and reduced wellbeing of the 20,800 Australians living with SCI.1 This is approx. $3.7bn per year.
- Almost half of these costs ($31.4bn) are from personal care, either formal (paid) care or unpaid care from family and friends