Lifting Myself to Lift Others

My name is Greg Callen and in 2005 I was injured in a fall from a 13-foot balcony. I actually jumped and landed on my feet, which caused my L12 and T1 vertebrae to burst. The life-changing detail? A fragment of one of those vertebrae pushed against my spinal cord, causing a bruise which left me paralyzed. When this happened, I had a number of fears, one concerning my career and how I would have any money to follow my dreams. My reality immediately felt as though I would never work again, never succeed, and never make my dreams come true!

Back to the Workforce

I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind for some time as I pressed through physical and emotional therapy to try to understand "why me!?" After 18 months I had an opportunity to work as an inside sales technical support representative. A local company who distributed the products I once sold for a manufacturer was hiring. My brother was already working there, so I thought I might have a smoother transition back to work there. It went well for the most part, but I immediately realized that if I was going to be working for the remainder of my life, I needed to have a passion for my work.

Greg in a meeting

Months went on, and there were ups and downs at work, but not many related to my injury. The most complicated issue regarding my paralysis was bowel and bladder. The owner was very understanding if I left to go home some days, and returned to make up time. Thankfully it wasn't as frequent as I had feared when considering reentry into the workforce. My recommendation to others considering rejoining the workforce is to be very clear during the interview process in expressing your fears, concerns, and needs to the human resources representative or owner to ease any anxiety you may have. Communication in regard to your new life and its challenges, big or small, is an asset to you and those closest to you who care and want to help you achieve success.

Later, I was involved with a vocational reentry program as well as some classes offered at the South Side Innovation Center, a community resource center and business development hub for those with low-to-moderate income, where I received guidance on starting a business. The center partners with Syracuse University to mentor and lead entrepreneurs in skill building, vision, and education, and guides them in their planning and development. As I learned attending a course at Syracuse University, if you find the right resource they will want to help you succeed. Finding resources such as these through a local community college or university is an important step to reentering the workforce. The opportunity I had at Syracuse University is now nationally known as the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans. It is hosted at a number of universities throughout the country as well.

Bringing My Passion to Others

From this program experience and the resources at the center, I wrote a business plan for my own not-for-profit organization to provide individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to play sports. The organization was named Move Along, Inc., now better known as Move Along Adaptive Sports. It has grown to be an educational affiliate for many local schools on inclusion in sports. Move Along also hosts five programs in local communities in central New York. So after you find resources, make your life's passion come true by starting your own business. I did it, and the most fulfilling part of succeeding is helping others have a resource to reintegrate, compete, learn life skills, laugh, cry, be a kid again, or just be a person not thinking about their disability!

Greg teaching schoolchildren about wheelchair basketball

As Move Along grew and we hired an executive director who has enabled our sustainability, I reentered the workforce in healthcare as a Director of Admissions and Marketing. The role was to assist those facing trauma or change. Most of the patients were elderly where I worked, so I mostly helped people deal with change; if short-term rehabilitation did not succeed they may need long-term care. I enjoyed guiding families of elderly patients in understanding their care plans for rehabilitation and returning home or to the community. It was challenging at times when we lost individuals who were long-term care residents.

Greg on the golf course

Making a Change

Most recently I was an account executive for a payroll company and it once again provided an opportunity to be a resource for others. When you can find an opportunity to work and make your quality of life better, ensure you consider what drives you. You may have recognized at this point that my passion is helping others. Regardless of the career field or industry, my focus is being true to myself and finding out how I can be a true resource to others I speak with on a daily basis.

Today I am searching for the career that makes both my quality of life, and that of those I work with, improve.

Here's my question for you as you think about returning to work: What will you enjoy? What will make you smile? Where will you grow personally and professionally? What will be the passion that empowers you to live each day as a member of the workforce?

I believe "you make you!" It's just a little slogan I use to stay focused on the reality that my life is up to me, and your life is up to you. We may need different levels of resources or help, but success is truly up to you. So in your career, it is you that will decide where you land, and you will need to know if you are passionate about your work.

Best of luck. Attitude is Altitude!

About the Author

Greg Callen

Greg Callen is the founder of Move Along, Inc., an organization set on bringing together the Central New York residents with disabilities. After an injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Greg focused his energies on athletics, work, and building a successful career while maintaining a passion for those who are also dealing with the struggles of being handicapped. Basketball, horseback riding, hand cycling, kayaking, tennis, touch football, and snowmobiling are just a few of the many pastimes Greg enjoys outside of the office.

Greg's ride is a Quickie 7R

Read Greg's blog, Finding Resources After Trauma - Spinal Cord Injury

Most of the stories here on RideQuickie were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.


Date: 5/16/2017 12:00:00 AM


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