The intersectionality between disability and leadership is becoming more apparent in a new wave of leadership. Being able to confront your own weaknesses is critical to great leadership and those living with disabilities are constantly coming up against their own weaknesses as well as flaws in today’s world.
Here we have an inspirational story that would motivate and make many connections with one’s emotions.
Sivalila Balakrishnan, a 41-year-old diabetic patient from Klang, inspires many with her life journey battling her own health obstacles. It’s devastating to hear that at the age of 35, Sivalila lose her right eye vision due to her suffering from diabetic retinopathy.
According to reports by FMT, Sivalila wasn’t aware that diabetes would affect one’s vision. Doctors were only able to save her left eye through a laser treatment. The experience of being partially blind broke her spirit until she registered under the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB), where she discovered that many others were born blind and were fighting bigger challenges than hers.
“I was always complaining that I only had one functioning eye. But when I came here, it dawned on me that many others had to live their entire lives blind. I guess I started appreciating life a bit more since then,” she said, crediting her late mother for advising her to stay strong in life.
Sivalila was diagnosed with Charcot foot, a disease that attacks the bones, joints, and soft tissues in the feet as a result of diabetes. She was told she had to either amputate her leg or face the prospect of dying from diabetes.
“Of course, I wanted to live. So, I had to sacrifice my leg because I still valued my life. At that moment I pictured my late mother who was also diabetic and lived her remaining years with just one leg – if she could do it, so could I”, she said added FMT.
Sivalila struggled with insomnia while week after the amputation and worried about how she would cope with her daily day-to-day tasks. When she regained her strength, she underwent physiotherapy to exercise her leg muscles and to be mentally stronger. She also learned how to use her prosthetic leg while walking and to overcome her mental inhibitions.
Sivalila made use of social media during the Covid-19 pandemic, creating short clips and reels to raise awareness of diabetes and inspire her followers to take action upon life’s challenges. Soon requests for speaking engagements began pouring in and feeling encouraged by this turn of events, she signed up for the Take the Trainer (TTT) course to become a more eloquent speaker.
She also designed a programme called ‘ABC of Life’ based on her own life experiences. When the pandemic restrictions were eased, she was able to meet people face to face again, although this time, she was delivering her talks from a wheelchair.
So what if I’m in a wheelchair? If I can talk to and inspire one person, that’s more than enough.
“I used to be camera-shy. But that was replaced by a more confident woman due to her experiences and I want to use that to inspire others, to tell them to always find that inner strength within themselves – there’s a lot of power when we look inwards,” she added.
These days, Sivalila is a freelancer with BlindSight, a social enterprise run by Lingesh Lechamanan that helps the marginalised and underprivileged. She is also a marketing consultant for various corporations.
You are such an inspiration for many and prove that despite complaining there are so many beautiful things to be grateful for on the bright side.