By Stephanie Collins
A disabled student in the medical laboratory science (MLS) department was recently given a special elevating chair to assist in the completion of his clinical rotation.
With some assistance from Eastern’s Office of Services for Individuals with Disabilities (OSID), Jason Gibson was able to obtain the chair from Vocational Rehabilitation, a government agency from his hometown.
Gibson, 21, grew up in Whitesburg. He had a standard childhood and he enjoyed football and video games. He admired his father, an Eastern Kentucky coalminer, and wanted to grow up to be like him.
On Oct. 16, 2001, Gibson’s future was forever changed in a paralyzing car accident. He was 10 years old.
Gibson said his mother had just picked him and his brother up from a school function, and feeling slightly ill, he laid down in the vehicle to rest.
He was asleep when their vehicle was struck by another going 70 mph in a 55-zone. He broke his L4 and L5 bones, and awoke 11 days later from a coma at UK Hospital.
Gibson said everything around felt unfamiliar, aside from both his mother and father who were there when he woke up.
“I remember the first thing I asked was, ‘Where am I, what happened?'” Gibson said. “I was very scared, but I mean I was 10, just woke up from a coma, so they [his parents] didn’t go into detail. They just explained there had been a car accident and I was in the hospital.”
Gibson was left paralyzed from the waist down, which led him to years of physical therapy.
“Now, I’m where I am now,” he said. “I’ve been giving it my best ever since then, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
He went on to graduate high school and is now in his final semester at Eastern. In December he will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in MLS.
Gibson said the best of his accomplishments has been gaining his independence back, after being dependent on his parents for so long.
“Now I can drive myself back and forth from school, I’m basically living on my own,” he said.
Before Gibson was assisted with the elevating chair, he was limited in his performance working through the clinical rotation portion of his major.
Gibson said he couldn’t reach certain shelves or tall machines in his manual wheelchair. The elevating power-controlled chair grants him that ability and helps him maneuver around more easily.
Teresa Belluscio, director of OSID, said Gibson is a hard-working student who has had to earn his success the same way his peers have.
“At the end of someone’s program, they have to go out and work in the field,” Belluscio said. “So basically there is a checklist, and Jason, just like everyone else, will have to demonstrate that he can do all of the things on his checklist by the end of his clinicals.”
Right now Gibson said he’s focused on the future. He said he still enjoys many of the same things he did as a child, like playing video games and watching movies in his down time.
He said he hopes to find a job similar to what he’s doing now, as a medical lab technician, and like most students, he is looking forward to being paid for the work he does.
Gibson said no matter where he ends up, he wouldn’t forget how far he has come.
“It’s amazing knowing where I’m at,” Gibson said. “When you look at where I’ve been and what I went through.”
Currently, Gibson’s chair is being rented for him by Vocational Rehabilitation, but he said once he finds a permanent job in his field, a permanent chair will follow.