I spoke with paraplegics and quadriplegics who worked in the same job or field for over 20 years to see how they did it — and to look for any unifying traits and similar approaches. Some of what I found was expected: most were confident, had degrees in their fields of employment and fearlessly jumped into their work. Less expected, most said they had little difficulty finding jobs and keeping them. Given that employment levels hover between 30 percent for quads and 40 percent for paras, this was surprising. I wondered if this was attributable to youthful naiveté or good luck, but then I saw the key was their passion. Not just a passion for working — that always helps — but a passion for their specific field, be it teaching, engineering or anything else.
The Police Man
When a car hit David Estrada on his motorcycle in 1995, it left him a T3 para and ended his law enforcement career before he could graduate from the academy. But while he was in rehab, the chief of the Boston Police Department visited and assured him he would have a job when he was ready. A year later Estrada became a 911 operator for the department. From there he moved on to the Office of the Police Commissioner and became the department’s media liaison. Today, in addition to being a BPD spokesman, he manages its website, Facebook page and Twitter account.