A journey incomparable

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“How losing everything set me free,” states the strap line for his incredible autobiography. Titled Stronger, the book is the only way we can even attempt at understanding his incredible quest for survival. However, it is one thing to survive and merely exist but quite another thing to thrive. Stronger may not give you a magic portion of survival. However, it definitely is a revelation of that magical ‘bouncing back’ humans are capable of, even in the face of dire adversity.   

Being honoured with Queensland’s coveted Australian of the Year Award in 2021, Dr. Dinesh Palipana had been traveling around the country, empowering many. The Lankan born Dr. Palipana was featured by Ceylon Today a couple of times in appreciation and honour of his unbelievable journey of courage. Now, his story is out in the form of an incredible book. We asked Dr. Palipana what Stronger deals with.

“It is an autobiography. I thought of writing it to share my story when a lot of friends and family insisted that I should.” It is fortunate that Dr. Palipana did not discard the potential of his story and how it can inspire people. We asked him where it starts and what all it covers. “A bit of it is placed in Sri Lanka and then the life after I moved to Australia, obviously the accident, the injury and the hospital process. It is followed by the experiences of bouncing back to work and working as a doctor,” he summed up a long story in three sentences. But that is oversimplifying a Herculean journey.

Speaking of his journey Dr.Palipana told, “It took much longer to do anything. I had to put extra effort to make even complete the minute tasks. Even with all that, the journey was far from smooth and straight forward.” Thinking of the many little disappointments we are showered with and the baggage of regret and complaints we carry, we could not resist but ask, “Did you ever question, ‘Why me?’,” Dr. Palipana thought about it and answered firmly. “Such a thought never struck me. I never looked at it as ‘Why me?’ I took it as a part of life. Many people go through harder things in life,” he explained as I listened in awe.

When an almost fatal car accident left him, the 25-year-old medical student quadriplegic in 2010, he could still think that people suffer worse than that. Take that as your power-slogan. For Dr. Palipana such pains and disappointments, unexpected disasters were part and parcel of life. It is this journey his Stronger discusses. The biography will shed light on his treatments to the procedures which took almost eight months. Apart from that it is also a testimony of bouncing back. What are visible and apparent are the physical injuries, pains and wounds. The book will speak of the emotional challenge it was. From the very basic needs of money to the treatment and procedure which continued for eight long months, that was an emotional rollercoaster ride. This phase includes employers, Health Department, bureaucracy and a struggle at each of these obstacles which had to be cleared. “This was where I decided to become a lawyer,” said Dr. Palipana. 

That brief explanation is for those who do not know the background but the story is now available to read. Didn’t writing it feel like re-living that traumatic incident and all the pain which followed, you may wonder? “It was okay. I knew I had to write it. My hope is that it will give courage and strength to someone who is going through a similar experience, someone who is dealing with similar challenges, and one who feels like everything is going against him to find his way back. Furthermore, I hope the book would change the attitudes of all the people in general with regard to disabilities. Enhance their sensitivity more towards these fellow human beings,” Dr. Palipana said.

When talking of someone who faces this type of a situation, or any kind of medical emergency we mostly speak of the person going through the condition. We rarely think about its impact on those around, his family in particular. Stronger is also for the family members who are caught up in a hopeless mess. Since its launch, the book has done very well in terms of reviews and response. The story has touched lives. Within these chapters you would not only find one man’s journey but one man’s quest to rise. “If you are going through a hard time, remember there is hope. Stay strong,” said Dr. Palipana. ‘Stronger’ he remains.

By Priyangwada Perera