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Confined to a wheelchair but not resigned to fate

| 30 Mar 2020

Video edited by Azri Bahari

Asyraf Ghazali is a 24-year-old Financial Representative from Great Eastern. Like many new representatives, he is still learning the ropes of the trade. But Asyraf faces a unique challenge. He has to go about his business confined to a wheelchair.

From being an active young gentleman, he didn’t foresee that his life would change forever in November 2018 when an accident left him paralysed. Now, he is determined to write his own story and live life to the fullest through a career in the financial services industry with Great Eastern.

Asia Advisers Network got the chance to have a chat with Asyraf who filled us all with inspiration and positivity. His voice crackled and the conversation was filled with emotions as he paused in between each memory and shared with us his dreams and goals.

“Imagine, one moment I was well, the next moment I had a tube down my throat to keep me alive”

He was serving his national service in the Singapore Armed Forces (conscription is compulsory in Singapore for males) when he was tasked with a despatch job to another camp. He was on his way riding his motorbike when he met with an accident with a car.

Everything happened so fast all he could remember was looking up to the sky and asking for help before he passed out. Waking up in ICU with multiple tubes running in and out of his body, he was hanging on with life support. He was on life support because his lungs had collapsed and his diaphragm wasn’t able to pull his lungs to expand. Getting off life support took Asyraf some time. He had to learn to do what we take for granted - how to breathe again with his own muscles.

He had thought that it was the trauma and intensive care needed for his injuries that were stopping him from moving the rest of his body.  Then, the doctor broke the news to him.

“Asyraf, you have to listen to what I say, if you need any counselling, I can get a counsellor for you. You broke your spine at this level (pointing to slightly below the chest level), and it’s about 3% chance that you’ll ever be able to walk again. That’s how bad your injury is.”

Stunned, he and his mom could only look at each other while trying to digest the news.

“This is it. This is the end of how I can live my life properly,” he thought to himself then.


Hope revived. Life relearned.

Tough as it was, he didn’t allow himself to wallow in self-pity for long. He began to ask himself, “What can I do to turn things around?”

His doctors said, “You know, there’s still hope. You’re still young, you can learn to relive your life.” That’s when Asyraf transferred to a rehabilitation centre specialising in handling spinal cord injuries.

Recalling his rehabilitation journey, he said, “I was like a newborn baby. I had to learn how to move around, learn how to manage myself on the toilet and things like that. It was very tough.”

But once that hurdle was over and he became, in his own words, “somewhat independent”, his focus began to shift to tackle the next big puzzle - what he can do as a career.

Finding an industry without prejudice

He began his research to find a career that could provide him with some flexibility when it came to access and avoiding peak hour crowd, yet at the same time open enough not to be prejudiced against physical disabilities, and certainly one which rewards fairly based on results and efforts. That’s when he came across financial planning as a career.

Things started to click, as he was covered under group insurance in national service when he met with the accident, and saw that it helped him greatly.

“I realised that without this (insurance), I might not have been able to start my life and start moving forward.”- Asyraf Ghazali

The mindset change was pivotal. He like many others, had been wary and disbelieving of the concept of insurance. Before the accident, every time an insurance agent came up to him, he admitted his mentality was “what is this? What am I paying for? It’s like you’re paying for something that is imaginary”.

Realising how insurance provided him with protection and financial assistance in this storm in his life, through his own life’s experience, he is inspired to be the one to help change people’s perceptions of the trade. Life can happen in ways beyond your control. “And if you are adequately insured, insurance could really help you out. I would say that I am a good example of it. Because, I went through the toughest challenge, and I have emerged stronger and managed to benefit from it.”

He decided to join Great Eastern as it was a brand he trusted, and the support the company provided him from the start made him feel certain that it was the right decision - from the workplace accommodations so that he can easily move around; spurring him to pitch ideas on how he can value-add to his clients to inspiring him to have the confidence and self-belief to speak publicly to a large audience as the guest speaker at the Great Kickoff 2020 event.

“The company encourages us to try new things, and provides us with the tools and training to succeed,” he shares, “I’m thankful for how inclusive and supportive my team, leaders and the company have been towards me.” 

Heart to heart talk

On the challenges he faced starting out in his career, he shared, “Of all, meeting people is still quite tough. Many feel awkward as they don’t know how to act or behave around me. Some of them ended up not meeting me because they feel that they would be obliged to buy something from me because of my disability.”

With a tinge of sadness in his eyes, he added, “Actually, I just want to meet them to educate them on the benefits of financial planning…. and hopefully I’ve slowly managed to change others’ perception of disability, youth and working normally.”

But he is grateful for all the support that Great Eastern as an employer has provided him with. He was invited to speak at the Great Eastern Kickoff 2020 for its agency force. “I was able to share my story and hope it inspired others to continue helping their customers’ lives for the future unforeseen. It was a really great platform for me to be at. It helped me expose my disability and dispel (preconceived) notions of not being able to work or live independently as a normal 24-year-old.”

“I hope what I shared managed to touch people’s hearts, and to inspire other financial representatives to not give up in challenging times, and to see that one can always turn things around with the right mentality and positive thinking.”


The future

On what his immediate goals are, he said, “I want to create this awareness that even if you are disabled, you can still be able to lead a normal life.”  

Joining this industry has opened new doors for him and he is hopeful that the career will give him financial freedom and enable him to care for his family as well.

Being such an optimistic figure despite what has happened to him, we asked what inspires him and motivates him to keep going? He answered that it was his two pillars of inspiration who helped him through the abyss - his single mother (Asryaf’s dad died when he was young and his mother single-handedly raised him and his two elder siblings) and then-girlfriend (now fiancée, hooray!) His mother and fiancée had been there right from the beginning and never gave up on him during his moments of despair.  

Because his family had always been there for him even when he felt like a “burden”, he feels an extra dose of motivation to fight on. “I would tell people that family is important. So put family as your inspiration, because you know through tough times, they will always be there for you,” he said.

Asyraf ended the interview with this, “In life, nothing is easy. Curveballs can be thrown at you all the time. But you have to take it well, you’ll have to be able to react and realise that you still have to knock that ball out of the park.”


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Working from home and want more reading materials? Read AAN's compilation of our best articles in 2019 at The Best of Asia Advisers Network - Volume II. In volume ii, we bring you senior executives' insights, industry's best, industry news and development, as well as insights from beyond the insurance industry. 

Want to download the volume and read at leisure instead? Download volume II here.

The Best of Asia Advisers Network Volume II was launched at our #AANis2 anniversary celebration where we marked our second year and spent the evening celebrating our milestone with industry friends whilst making new ones.

For those who didn't manage to join us, check out video highlights of the evening and pics of the party on our facebook page.

It felt like only yesterday when we celebrated our very first milestone. If you would like to relive our first-anniversary party, read this – Yesterday, today and tomorrow


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