Why School Matters After Your Spinal Cord Injury by Eric Kolar

Editor’s Note: At 15-years-old, Eric Kolar never could have imagined that one night out with his friends would change his life forever.  Today, C6-7 quadriplegic Eric Kolar works for UroMed, one of the nation’s largest urology supply companies.  Outside of work, he volunteers as a peer counselor for the non-profit program, Life After Spinal Cord Injury.  Eric feels that sharing his own story of recovery and success after SCI is just one way to pay it forward as gratitude to all that helped him find his own path in life. Below, we share his thoughts on the value of education.

Eric has a big heart for anyone he meets, especially kids and friends with SCI.

Eric has a big heart for anyone he meets, especially kids and friends with SCI.

After sustaining a Spinal Cord Injury, or some other life-changing condition, and being discharged from the hospital or rehab setting, there are times that many people just don’t want to or feel like they can get back out into the community. Many have a tendency to feel like an outcast or that they’ll be treated differently and not taken seriously.

I’m sure that everyone with a SCI has felt that way at least once, but it is extremely important to shake that feeling and get back out into the community and become one with it again. One way to do this is through education.

Why School Matters After Your SCI
I cannot begin to stress the absolute importance of starting or going back to school with the overall goal of landing a position in the work force.
Don’t, by any means, think that an employer is going to be sympathetic of your disability and grant you a position. I can tell you, from personal experience, you must be sharper than most applying for the same position.

One of the best ways to improve your skills and value is to have some type of experience in your chosen field and to have earned a degree or certificate. As the years go by, employers are looking for more-talented individuals with great knowledge of the subject at hand. It does not matter if one is able-bodied or sitting in a chair.

When you decide to resume your education, I’m not saying you should roll into firefighter school using a wheelchair, but I do recommend choosing an area that interests you. For example, if you worked in construction before your accident, perhaps you would like to pursue a degree in architecture.  That way, you can continue working in an area that you’re passionate about, but you can approach it with a skillset that relies on your intellect and less on your physical strength.

If you have what it takes, the employer will not perceive you as a person in a wheelchair. They’ll see you as a well-rounded individual with knowledge and give you the opportunity to demonstrate what skills you do have.

As part oof a military family, Eric was raised with a strong work ethic.

As part of a military family, Eric was raised with a strong work ethic.

How Eric Created A Career For Himself
After graduating high school, I had aspirations of doing what I saw a lot while I was in rehab at Shepherd Center — that was helping other people in wheelchairs who had similar disabilities. I returned to college in the Therapeutic Recreation program, but after a few quarters, my school actually dropped the program due to so few people pursuing that line of study. I continued with an undeclared major and began to lose interest.

During that time of uncertainty, I worked several jobs around town, including working as a dispatcher at an ambulance service. Through this experience, I gained an interest in the healthcare field. I attended Columbus Technical College in Georgia and went thru their Medical Assisting program.

The administrators at Columbus Technical College had full faith in me from day one. I remember my first time drawing blood from my instructor, Barbara Gaither. Her confidence in me only made me more confident.

Eric’s Confidence Guided His Ability to Excel
My classmates soon elected me as Vice-President of our Student Council and then I graduated! I went on to become a Certified Medical Assistant.  After graduation, I worked at an urgent care center performing clinical and administrative duties. I thoroughly enjoyed the clinical aspect of my role, but I still knew that I wanted more.

UroMed made the Richmond office more accessible for Eric by arranging materials and supplies at a level he could easily reach. That was good planning too for when he had to put everything back on the shelves following the Virginia earthquake!

UroMed made the Richmond office more accessible for Eric by arranging materials and supplies at a level he could easily reach. That was good planning too for when he had to put everything back on the shelves following the Virginia earthquake!

A few months later I made contact with a company where I purchased medical supplies. After speaking with one of the senior managers there, I went in for an interview.  A month after that, I was living in Alpharetta, GA and working for one of the largest Urological Medical Supply companies in the country – who you know as UroMed.

Today [seven years later], I oversee the Virginia branch office for Uromed and I love every bit of my job! The bottom line in my opinion is — If you want it, follow your heart. Get your education and you will find success.

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

3 Responses to Why School Matters After Your Spinal Cord Injury by Eric Kolar

  1. Morgan says:

    Eric I would love to get in contact. I sustained a c6c7 injury three years ago which derailed my career aspirations of joining the FBI, before that I did a term with americorps Ina free health clinic I philadelphia and had a interest in medical assistant with a focus on phlebotomy, but was highly discourage and even turned out during school interviews. I have degrees in psychology with a focus in psychopathology development, forensics and addictions. I could use a guide/guru I’m so lost.

    • Allison Lannon says:

      Thank you for your response! Eric has said that he would be happy to speak with you and we have passed along your information.

  2. Cheryl Lewis says:

    You are an Inspiration. Get it Done, young man! Hooah-Hua-Oorah!

    Please Join us at Paralyzed Veterans of America Bayou Gulf States facebook page. Facebook: PVA Bayou Gulf States

    We send out post a daily troop photo (a family or friends photo) with the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. Please feel free to LIKE oir page.

    Thank You, Eric! Keep up the great attitude!

    Cheryl Lewis RN
    VP PVA Bayou Gulf States

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