Meet Eileen: Adjusting to a New Reality

5-Minute Read

In the latest installment of Galt Foundation’s “Success Stories” series, we highlight the journey of Eileen, an avid runner who woke up one morning to find her legs mysteriously paralyzed. Eileen, who now works internally at Galt Foundation, shares her life experiences and offers advice for HR recruiters and for individuals who find themselves in situations that are similar to hers.

Life can sometimes completely change overnight. Nobody is immune from unexpected changes, but how you respond can make all the difference.
This was the case for Eileen, an individual who enjoyed running marathons and kayaking, whose world drastically changed one morning three years ago. She woke up to find that both of her legs were paralyzed.
Eileen’s experience was a random occurrence, and her doctors were unable to provide a diagnosis. Upon being discharged after 42 days in the hospital, she was determined to adjust to her new reality using a wheelchair for mobility and new support partners, including Galt Foundation.

Life Before Galt
Although she had years of experience working for renowned national newspapers, Eileen found it extremely difficult to reenter the workforce after being released from the hospital. Since work plays such a major role in most people’s lives and identities, this obstacle made her feel like she had to recalculate everything.
Eileen stated that the changes hit her quickly and left her needing to figure out how to function. Job interviews were different from what she remembered. Eileen said, “They weren’t looking at me. They were looking above me.” Her interviews did not go well, as she felt the employers’ interest dwindling as the conversations progressed.
After a year of searching for meaningful work opportunities, Eileen came across Galt Foundation on the internet. She had previously tried another staffing agency and followed up with them repeatedly to no avail. Her frustrating experience with the other agency left her feeling unsure of what to expect from Galt. However, Eileen decided to approach things with a clean slate and an open mind, and she applied for an internal position at Galt Foundation.
Tremendous Support
Eileen was eventually placed in an internal role at Galt Foundation. Compared to her previous jobs, this was a completely new world. Galt provided her with thorough training to help her prepare for the role and learn the necessary processes. Eileen also used many transferable skills that she had developed along the way, which helped her excel in her position, and Galt provided opportunities that added to these skills.
“[Galt Foundation gives] people with challenges, like me, a chance at full and meaningful employment,” remarked Eileen, who is now walking again with the help of a walker.
She said that the support Galt provides job seekers – both personally and professionally – is truly remarkable, and that more organizations should emulate Galt Foundation’s forward-thinking nature. “Galt didn’t look at my disability. It honed in on my potential,” she added.

Words of Wisdom
After her own frustrating interview experiences during her reentry into the workforce, Eileen wanted to provide a sense of opportunity for individuals who find themselves facing similar challenges. “There are many things that remain out of our control, so it’s important to focus on what you can control right here and now. You cannot always plan everything ahead of time, because you won’t know what comes next. It’s important to focus on the present,” she stated.
Throughout her ordeal, Eileen kept a positive mindset and continued to do the things that remained important to her. She has maintained her active lifestyle and still goes on hikes using her walker. Her pace may be different now, but she still enjoys the outdoors as a creative way to do physical therapy. In addition, she refined her personal goals and told herself, “I have to make the world bigger. I can’t make it smaller.”
For other HR recruiters, Eileen’s advice is to always look at the whole person and not be distracted by a visible disability. People are so much more than the exterior we see, and you never know what is going on in people’s lives.
The most important aspects during the application process are the applicant’s skill set and capabilities. Organizations with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the workplace will pave the way for a forward-thinking culture and improved business operations.

A Society of Acceptance
Looking back on her own interview experiences, Eileen does not blame her interviewers for the way they reacted. When it comes to these types of situations, Eileen believes that people are not intentionally trying to be mean. They are just not aware, which results in ignorance and discomfort. In order for people to become more comfortable with differences, diversity needs to be represented within the workplace and in the media.
Education on injury and illness can also help combat ignorance. Our society needs to learn to put the person first, because individuals are not defined by their disability. They should not be referred to as a “disabled person” but rather as a “person with disabilities.” Eileen added that she likes to think of herself as “differently abled” instead of “disabled.”

Let Galt Foundation Help You
Galt Foundation is a great resource for individuals with disabilities who are searching for work. Galt Foundation provides priority placement for people with disabilities, and emphasizes finding the right fit for every individual and assignment.
Recently, Eileen helped a man with hearing loss find a great, suitable assignment. He called Galt after his first shift to let them know how excited he was. In addition to the opportunities that Galt provides job seekers, it is instances like these that make Eileen’s job feel worthwhile.
If you are an individual with a disability who needs help finding employment, or know of someone who is, feel free to get in touch with the friendly associates at Galt Foundation here, or call us at 1-877-361-1277. We’d be more than happy to help.

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