At present, the world seems to have turned upside down, but humanity has always had a way of adapting and moving forward. On Monday, March 30, this concept was exemplified in a Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) virtual event featuring guest speaker Joseph Cali.
About 14 years ago, Cali was involved in a car accident, which resulted in him having a spinal cord injury and becoming quadriplegic. The recovery process was long and complex, but he attributes the assistance he received from his occupational therapists (OT), physical therapists (PT) and other healthcare workers as being crucial for the quality of life he currently achieves.
After the car accident, Cali spent some time in hospitals rehabilitating. He remembers the instrumental part his OT's and PT's played all throughout his recovery process. He emphasized the importance of relearning basic functions, such as brushing one's teeth, dressing oneself, typing and so forth as being fundamental to a successful recovery and transition back into the world. As minuscule as these things seemed, he recognizes that learning these basics helped him to slowly regain his independence.
"By virtue of knowing how to do those little things that translate into other activities of daily life, it did go a long way to massage itself out into something bigger that, in a way, served better, and my recovery sped up and [was] enhanced by virtue of knowing those things," said Cali.
Speaking to an audience largely of aspiring OTs and PTs, Cali addressed the significant impact the students' intended profession can have on people's lives. He emphasized that OTs and PTs hold the major responsibility of teaching people how to regain normalcy through the expert information they learn over their years of schooling. Cali explained that when people are discharged, they do not know themselves, nor are they likely to know anyone who has such valuable knowledge instrumental to one's own recovery. As such, often times, it is only during these times, working one on one with clients in professional settings that a client has the opportunity to learn a multitude of important techniques, splints, and advice that may greatly impact their quality of life.
Cali explained that, in his life, he has had to adapt and continually learn new and different ways of accomplishing tasks. This ranges from using tools differently from their intended purposes to reconstructing his bathroom. He described the different types of considerations he may have when approaching an obstacle or a variety of scenarios. For instance, as a first-time father, Cali explained how he had had to figure out how to hold his baby girl when she was born. He explained that approaching these different scenarios is made possible through the seemingly small habits and exercises he formed with his OTs and PTs.
Cali shared numerous stories to benefit the aspiring PTs and OTs, and the event ended with a Q&A session. More than 20 students were present for the virtual event.
Samantha Kantor, president of SOTA, was pleased with the outcome of the event. She observed how the virtual event served as an opportunity for students to cope with current events and to socialize. She was also pleasantly surprised to find that a virtual event can offer benefits that an on-site event cannot.
"I always had a perception that virtual guest speakers didn’t compare to experiencing a guest speaker in person, but I was proven wrong by our speaker, Joseph Cali," said Kantor. "Since he was speaking to us in his home, he was able to show us the adaptive equipment he uses, items that we would not have seen if he had come to Kean to speak with us."
SOTA students were able to view Cali's adaptive equipment, such as his outdoor ramp, wider doors, writing tools, shower chair and sink.
"Also, not only did we get to hear about his life now that he's a dad, we also got to meet his daughter!" said Kantor.
Following the success of this virtual event, SOTA is looking forward to doing more programs not only through Kean, but also in partnership with other organizations. SOTA is currently in the early stages of planning a pen pal service and creating resource guides to benefit the community. Students interested in partaking in a project can contact SOTA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This virtual event is an example of many events that will continue to pop up on Cougar Link for students to partake in, to enrich their remote education experience.