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  • Writer's picturePeta

Dinesh Palipana's perspective of his car accident took Peta's breath away.

Dinesh is one of those rare people. He has achieved so much in his life.

A doctor. A lawyer. He has won Queensland's Australian Of The Year. He has OAM. He has a disability and now he is a published author.

Connect with Dinesh:

Connect with Peta:

Instagram @petahooke


Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast the podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I love to answer your questions. Something has never happened to me before. Happened during this conversation. Denise's answer to my first question totally took my breath away. And I sort of lost where I was for a minute. I wonder whether you'll be the same when he hear his answer. But before we get into it, despite my best efforts of editing this episode, Dinesh, I think, was sitting in the kitchen of a hospital. I don't quite know where he was. I think you should be able to hear coughing in the background, possibly a machine beeping, which I've tried to remove. And also a microwave opening despite all those noises. He was such a consummate professional in delivering me such thoughtful answers. So I hope you enjoy it and plan long in place with me at the same time. So without any further ado, let's get into it.

Dinesh [00:01:34] Hello everyone. Peta First of all, thanks for having me on the podcast. I'm so excited. My name is Dinesh, California. I have a spinal cord injury which affects the use of my hands and everything on the chest. I work as a doctor and I'm a lawyer and a disability advocate, so passionate about this area.

Peta [00:01:57] And you're a very busy man, so I appreciate your time very much. Thank you. Now, Dinesh, I'm always really conscious of asking people about their disability, because often there's so much trauma connected to this story. How do you go about reliving your accident and telling people about your life?

Dinesh [00:02:18] Such a good question. You know, I don't actually feel any sweet. You know, I don't really feel any trauma or I don't really feel any distress when I think about the accidents. And I think part of the reason is when I was actually having the accident. Oh, so scared for a little while. And now it's like if I'm going to die. It was so violent because flipping through there, I was on the highway. But there was a moment when I decided to think about it differently. And such a weird thing. Like we learn about cognitive reframing, which is a wellness technique where you take an event and think about something a bit differently to give it a different flavour. So I don't know why, but I chose that moment to be that. So when I was flipping through there in the car, I just thought, There's nothing I can do about this anymore, so I'm not going to be scared. And I chose to have fun instead. So yeah, so I thought, I'm going to think of this like a roller coaster and. There was nothing else I could do at that point in time, and I had to just think about it differently. So when I talk about it, I'm going to talk about what's happened. I don't really feel anything, any other feel any distress, which I'm actually grateful for.

Peta [00:03:52] Wow. That that's absolutely remarkable that you had that ability to think, you know, to flip that viewpoint in such a, you know, life defining moment in your life. As you say, you're a doctor, you're a lawyer. You're a very formidable individual. And I just would love to know what it is like to have that medical knowledge as a medical student and then become the patient or the person with a disability. Do you think naivete would have been a blessing, having not known, or was your knowledge helpful to you to be able to cope?

Dinesh [00:04:33] So when I first had the accident. I knew like I knew from the moment when the car stopped, I knew that I had a spinal cord injury and I knew the worst thing in happened. And I knew that my life would be the same. I just thought I need to put the medical thing aside and I need to put the technical aspects aside. And I just need to be a patient and I need to try to get through this as a human being. And that's actually an important thing because I don't remember who it was since maybe hypocrisies that once said the biggest mistake a physician makes. Is to think that the mind and body are two different things and to treat those two things exclusively because you can't treat the body until you treat the mind. So I decided that I'd let go and let someone else look after the body while I tried to look after the soul. And that really helped. But. Going through the injury subsequently. There's been so many complications after the spinal cord injury happened. And disability is quite a nuanced thing medically. Sometimes it's easy for some things to slip under the radar. So as time has gone on more and as I've had more complications because people with disability actually have a life expectancy gap, to have a health care gap, they have many challenges in accessing health care. I've taken a bit more control of that health as time has gone by as well. So it's it's been a yeah, it's been it's been complex. We we come across these different things, like we get these different diagnoses and we get these different things. But I think in a way, like, we can't let that define us and we can't let the world define us by those things as well, because we're all just different, unique human beings that have so much to give and so much value. And you know, I read another thing where someone said that a human being can never be broken. And actually our society and our structures and the things that we have which are broken, and that's what breaks people. So human beings can never be broken. And despite these things that we get, we need to enable people to keep going. At the end of the day, it's our lives. It's your life. It's my life. How can we let someone else dictate how that is? We need to take control of our lives and we need to empower each other and help others to go through it as well, despite these things that we come across.

Peta [00:07:32] And society is often the disabling element in our lives, like there's no doubt about that. How have you gone about conducting your career going forward as somebody with a disability? Possibly the low expectations you might have faced or simply the pressure of you being the example of what it is to be a disabled doctor.

Dinesh [00:07:57] I get a lot of joy from what I do. Every day when I go to work, it's just me and the patient and. When there's something I can do for them that's like I do. I feel incredibly joyous and happy about that. But at the same time I do realise that we're setting an example and we have to pave the way for others that come through as far. Being a professional with a disability and having a job as someone with a disability. I want to make it easier for others to follow. I try really hard to make sure that the structures and the people around me that form these hierarchies don't see it as a liability, but rather see it as an asset. I think that's one of the other things that I've come across in my career out there, like, Oh, have a disability, okay. That must be an increased cost or that must be increased risk. There must be increased liability. There must be increased absenteeism. The hope is there are all these misconceptions. But actually, you know, you could argue that it's less risk because we are so aware of what we can and can't do. Right. Physically, at least. We're so aware, hyper aware of certain things. And actually, the data shows that absenteeism is less. The people with disabilities are in the workforce. There are so many different things that I think about when I go forward, but it's my hope that by shining a light hopefully changes minds.

Peta [00:09:38] And one like you are shining a light is you're releasing a book. It's called Stronger. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Dinesh [00:09:48] I'm really nervous about it because it's everything. I've put everything down on paper and I've read it so many times and say, Oh my God, I hope this is okay, that it reads okay. This content means something to people. So I hope that it's okay and I'm really nervous about it. So in 2018, I was invited to talk at Stanford in San Francisco. And I think you probably can relate. But flying when you can't send. So I was like, Oh, God, to be in a plane for 13 hours.

Peta [00:10:28] And it's not even about the nerves of talking at Stanford. It's about the flight.

Dinesh [00:10:34] Exactly. Exactly. So. So I was like, Oh, tease. And I'll think about doing it virtually. But then my mom said, You got to go. Like, you have to take these opportunities. You have to be there in person to meet people. And you need to you need to go and and what's the worst thing that can happen? You know, something happens and to come back. So I was like, okay, all right, let's go. We got there and indeed the wheelchair was broken. But I spoke there and I met this guy who his name is Jeremy Howey, and he wrote this book called Dr. U. And he's an author and is an amazing guy. And we became friends over time. You always encourage me to write a book. Then one day randomly, I got a phone call from Jameela, who's also an author and journalist. Based in Melbourne and she was writing a book about medical conditions. She had a brain tumour. So she's talking about that. She told me to get some perspective about the patient sliding doors. They both helped me out a lot. And here we are in 2022 and the book's coming out and I'm nervous.

Peta [00:11:51] You have no need to be nervous if it's anything like. Eloquent. You've been with me for the last 20 minutes. You'll be fine.

Dinesh [00:11:59] Thank you.

Peta [00:12:01] Being in the medical profession. There's lots of high stress situations, lots of long hours. As someone with a disability, I struggle with fatigue. I am in awe of you even attempting to go into the medical profession. How do you manage your fatigue?

Dinesh [00:12:23] I think it was more of an issue for me when the accident first happened. I remember when I was in the hospital, I was sleeping a lot. As as the years went on, I think I developed a bit more energy. So to say, like I am, actually. I'm pretty constantly fatigued, like this one secret. Like I don't really sleep well because of various reasons to do with sampling. But at the same time, I think I nearly died in an accident. And obviously, I've had a couple of life experiences subsequently as well from complications. So I feel the urgency of living life and I feel the urgency of squeezing every drop out of life, knowing that it can be ripped away from us any minute. And so every day I just try to make the most of it. I think about it a lot that it helps me put the fatigue side.

Peta [00:13:25] Knowing as many doctors as I do. I think being tired is part of the brand and part of the lifestyle. So you fit in quite well, clearly.

Dinesh [00:13:33] Exactly. Coffee Peta good. Coffee. Coffee's good.

Peta [00:13:39] So what do you wish people better understood about living with a disability?

Dinesh [00:13:44] I think don't make judgements. Don't think that. Don't make judgements about what someone can and can't do. Makes judgements about what they should and shouldn't do. Don't make judgements about anyone being a risk or a liability or anything like that. But please give everyone a chance to talk to people and understand people. And I suppose the second thing is there are so many complexities about someone with a disability. For me, I can't control my body temperature. Can we talk about flying equipment like wheelchairs? There's so many different facets to it and people's lives are complex. So people go through a lot, a lot of hardship, a lot of complexity. That's why we need allies. We need people to enable each other, and we need people to fight for what's right.

Peta [00:14:46] Is there anything you don't like about having a disability?

Dinesh [00:14:49] No, not like I love my life. I love the people that I've met as a result. I wouldn't have met you if I didn't have injury, right? We wouldn't be having this conversation. It's me. It's who I am. I'm happy that I am who I am today because of spinal injury. And it has given me so much opportunity not just for myself, but to help others and to be a voice and to hopefully make a difference and to better understand myself as well. Because I think hardship helps us understand ourselves, challenge ourselves, and it helps us to stretch ourselves. It has given me a lot more. And it has taken away, which is nothing to.

Peta [00:15:42] What do you wish for in the future for people with disabilities?

Dinesh [00:15:46] Well, firstly. Where the basic rights are not inclusive, where there is no health care gap, where there's no employment gap, where there's no income gap with it's not those basic rights, but there's no housing. So this basic rights to be protected and for them to be able to, as they say, pursue happiness in any way they want. And for us to empower people to do that.

Peta [00:16:19] Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I love talking to you.

Dinesh [00:16:24] It's been amazing. Thanks for having me and thanks for what you're doing. It's just really cool. And these conversations make a difference.

Peta [00:16:37] I hope you enjoyed this episode. I really enjoyed talking to Dinesh because it was a quite rushed interview and Dinesh was so busy on that day. Listening back to our conversation. There are a lot more questions that I want to ask him, like, how does someone become a lawyer and a doctor? Or is it just me that doesn't understand how a person does that? Anyway, if you'd like to ask a question for a future episode of the podcast, and I haven't done an episode of those for a while, so I'd really appreciate if you get in contact with me. My Instagram is at Peter Hook spelt paté hatch. Okay. You can email me. My email is or I also have a website. It is If you could leave writing and review if you listen on Apple Podcasts or hit follow on whatever podcasting platform you're listening on. Have a good week, everyone. And until next week. Bye.


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