‘My quadriplegic son is my inspiration’: A mother’s unwavering love

Chithrani Palipana and her son Dinesh

Not for one second did she think twice about what she should do. Her son had sustained a devastating spinal cord injury as a result of a road traffic accident, which had left him without feeling or movement from the chest down. But she knew whatever happened now from then on, she would always be by his side.

It was 2010 and Chithrani Palipana’s 32 year old son Dinesh had his life changed forever. The Griffith University Medical student’s dreams of becoming a doctor were hanging in the balance, and so were the dreams that his mother had for him.

Dinesh’s subsequent struggle to come to terms with life as a quadriplegic; his success in studying medicine and his ultimate triumph in gaining registration as a doctor earlier this year, have been well documented.

But what of Chithrani? She says it’s no coincidence that she is now on a path towards becoming a rehabilitationcounsellor for people with disabilities, and is currently completing a Graduate Certificate in Case Management, leading to a Masters in Rehabilitation Counselling at Griffith.

An IT systems administrator for the local council at the time of the accident, her life changed irrevocably. She sacrificed her job to become a full-time carer for her son, and effectively become the sole support for him during this dark period.

But despite the immense effort required for Dinesh to return to university, he never lost his desire to become a doctor. The same can be said for Chithrani, who has never wavered in her desire to help her son achieve his goals.

Helping him in his three hour routine to get ready each morning before leaving for hospital is just one of the practical supports Chithrani provides Dinesh in collaboration with a small team of trusted assistants.

“Of course there have been many times since the accident, where I have found myself teetering on the edge with my emotions, with the enormity of what we have had to deal with,” she says. “And wondering if I even had the capacity to deal with such a devastating life event, but I have coped.

“I always had a passion for counselling and in 2010, on the day of his accident, I sat for my last exam finishing my Diploma in Counselling. I was lucky in that I could draw on a lot of coping strategies that I had learnt.

“I was dead set on getting Dinesh through med school, and now I am dead set in supporting him in his medical career.

“Of course he has had many dark times too, but overall his positive outlook to life is so contagious that you can’t help but feel that anything is possible.

“In many ways Dinesh has been my inspiration. Broadening my understanding of disabilities and the disabilities sector has been one of the positive aspects to come out of this.”

With very limited spare time on her hands, Chithrani also works as a Justice of the Peace in the Community at Australia Fair, as well as at the Gold Coast University Hospital and at Griffith, giving back to the community the best that she can.

“We are so grateful for the support from Griffith and the local community at large, and this has compelled me to take my counselling goals further with my study,” she says.

Now considered one of the best interns to have ever graduated from Griffith’s School of Medicine, Dinesh is currently working for Queensland Health in the area of vascular surgery.