An Interview with Bob
How were you
injured & for how long?
August 17th, 1981. ‘Pool-hopping’ with a few of my friends after a house party (I was 18,
and, it was my last week of ‘Summer freedom’ till I would leave for football camp and the start of my Freshman
year at Shippensburg University). Filled with a lot of adrenaline and some alcohol. I ran from one end of
the pool, diving to see how far I could coast under water. Thanks to my friends pulling me out, I never did surface
on my own. The result let me a C-6 quadriplegic. Spent two weeks at the Reading Hospital, then four months at
the E-Town Hospital
for Children & Youth.
28 years ago. Can’t believe, all those ‘hot nurses’ from my E-town days are now eligible for AARP.
What are some of the adaptations you use daily?
3 daily adaptations I could not live without. Hair brush, razor, and my pencil wrapped with
a piece of foam used for typing on the computer. Grocery bags are handy. Whenever I need something
out of the cabinets or freezer that are too heavy to get a grip on, I’ll lay the grocery bag on the floor, flip the
item unto the floor, then, roll into the grocery bag, pulling the grocery bag by the handle up off the floor. All the
other things I just make do without. I’m not carrying around a bag of gadgets with me. Fresh out of rehab
and the first two years of college, I use to write using my hand and a flair pen . With no C-6 movement or strength
in the hand, taking tests by writing ‘normal’ got to be a pain. Eventually, when they’ve seen me put
the pen in my mouth so I could finish my tests, I thought the ‘cat’s out of the bag’. Twenty-sum odd
years and I continue to write using my mouth. It’s the same style and speed as before my accident. Maybe,
I should insure my teeth. They make up for what fingers don’t do any more.
Life after SCI is tough. How did you make it through?
Participating in sports held a lot of ‘life lessons’ for me. The ‘Winners never quit, quitters never
win’ type of thing. I believe, that thinking help me ignore a lot of the negatives. The life lessons
built my Character , and, Character can be a great motivator. Motivation in turn is that ‘push’ -
the push to take on opportunities. Confidence is the aftermath.
time of my accident, I always knew ‘I was better than this’. Whatever ‘this’ was. It motivated
me to get on with life, quickly, before any kind of ‘rut’ could sit in. One week after New Year’s
1982, I was discharged from the Elizabethtown hospital, and enrolled as a Freshmen at
(again, take 2). My parents were also good motivators (may they rest in peace) – they weren’t going to return
any PHEAA money back to the State for not enrolling into a college. So, as you can tell; motivation = ‘push’
and going to school was a must. I also have to say, for a school (Shippensburg
Univ.) that didn’t know me, they really got involved with my progress
thru rehabilitation. If anyone’s writing a movie script – “high school all state football player breaks
neck before start of season, students run slave auctions, exchange letters, teams goes 14-0 before losing in the DIV II National
Championship”. When I enrolled there in January of 1982, they already knew me.
attending college away from home, and, for me 4 ½ years, it was a good insulator from reality. ‘Ship’ opened
the doors, offering me attendants working thru student aid. I was a dumb ‘jock’ with an 800 SAT score
‘walking’ into college. A C-6 quadriplegic with a Computer Science degree ‘rolling’ out of college.
Take that – high school guidance counselors!
to be thankful to be working, steadily, for 23 years now (as I’m knocking on wood). There are days, where saying
to myself, “you do…, what you gotta do…” is needed to jump start my day.
How long have you been working? Was it hard to find a job that complimented your disability?
I’ve been working for about 23 years now.
a software developer for the Veteran’s Administration. I’m considered a ‘remote’ developer,
being, that I don’t work at one of the many development centers throughout the United States, but, have an office located
at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. To cover 23 years, I guess I must digress.
from college in 1986, vowed to become a software developer in a hospital setting. That meant, big city. Bigger
than Lebanon. I sat at home most
of the summer of 1986, till I landed my first professional job. I became a laboratory programmer for a company in Reading who supported about 10 hospitals. Drove 60 miles a day
for 5 ½ years and in that time got my first pressure sore. Grass is not always greener on the other side of the street.
With that working experience and knowledge, I applied back with the VA Medical Center and worked in their computer department
supporting the users from all the departments. Within those years, I also worked on some software project with the VA
developing group for the entire VA system. In 2001, I applied for a software developer’s job and became a ‘remote’
developer. I now write software that goes out to 170+ VA Hospitals. Due to my disability, I’m able
to work in a high profile job and not have to travel away to the bigger city. Opposite to my thinking in the beginning
of my career.
Do you use any special equipment or adaptations at work?
really. A touch keypad to open my office door, a very nice raise desk to hold my library of technical books, and,
my pencil wrapped with foam, I use to type on the computer. I’m in a hospital, so most doors open automatically.
Tell about any hobbies you enjoy.
Photography. I use an SLR camera, and, now a D-SLR camera with a ‘remote commander’ attachment. The
remote commander attachment is just the push button at the end of a cable cord. I place the push button in my mouth
holding the camera with my hands while I take my shots. Love taking pictures of young kids, before they make the goofy
faces. Also, enjoyed the benefits of handicapped seating at Penn
State football games. I’ve taken great shots throughout the
years, being so close to the field. Enough football pictures to fill the walls of my Penn State basement room.
Describe a typical day for you. It is so different for all of us.
I receive attendant care hours to assist with my mornings and nights. My priority is my job, but then, so is getting
up and going to bed every night. Once up, four of my work days, I drive from my house across the street to my
office at the VA. The other day, I work from home. Working hours are taken up by projects at different stages
throughout the year. It’s a job where you really create the things people in the hospital use. Very mental,
not very physical. When I’m home, twice a week I’ll run my legs on the ERGYS cycle machine. Some days
it’s doing laundry or getting groceries. When you own a house, some days you just want to relax in it. Any
more down time needed, there watching ‘Family Guy’ 2 or 3 times out of the week. And, I’m a Chef,
de la ‘Hot Pocket’.
Do you have any advice for people with new injuries?
Put little things on your ‘to do’ list, not just big things. It’s rewarding when you check them
Smile, people will hold the door for you ( I think that’s how I got my college girlfriend).
Be active, stay in motion.
Go to Church – really, it gets you out of the house.