Dr. Jim Post speaks to Wyoming Area High School juniors gathered at St. Anthony’s Center in Exeter for Career Day Thursday.Fred Adams /The Times Leader
EXETER – Quadriplegic success story Jim Post may have come to lead by example, but his advice was to “follow your heart.”
Post, a Hanover Township native who became a doctor despite being paralyzed in a swimming accident at the age of 14, told Wyoming Area High School juniors that doing what you love is the difference between “just going to work the rest of your life, and having a career.”
Post spoke Thursday during the district’s fourth Career Day, recounting his depression after the injury while trying to earn a Boy Scout merit badge in life saving. He hit his head on the bottom attempting a shallow dive, and would have drowned if not for attentive camp counselors.
He battled depression, nearly died again from respiratory failure later in the hospital, endured multiple surgeries and ultimately “decided it was time for me to focus on what I could do and not dwell on what I couldn’t do.”
So he studied pre-med at King’s College and applied to medical schools, only to be rejected repeatedly because of his paralysis.
Post credited state Sen. Ray Musto, D-Pittston Township, for finally opening the doors to med school.
Hearing of Post’s battle, Musto pushed through a change in state law making it illegal to discriminate against people with such disabilities. Post still had to endure multiple rejections but ultimately got into school and became a kidney specialist because, he said, it does not require the fine hand skills he had lost.
“My biceps work, I can move my shoulders,” he told about 190 students, “but I can’t make a fist.”
One student asked how patients react when they see he’s in a wheelchair. Post replied that once they realize he knows what he’s doing and can help them, “the wheelchair disappears.”
Post had followed a speech by blind attorney Michael Ferrence of Hanover Township. During Post’s question-and-answer session, Ferrence, his seeing-eye dog under his chair, asked if Post’s children “have a different sensibility” about people with disabilities because they’ve seen it firsthand. Post said they are more relaxed in such situations, in part because they grew up taking rides on dad’s knee as he zipped through New York City – where the family lives – on his wheelchair.
“Kids are great, because they are not afraid to ask questions,” Ferrence said, “And that opens the door for you to explain.”
Post told the students not to choose a practical job over doing what they really want, even if roadblocks get in the way.
“A difficulty might be an opportunity in disguise,” he said.
A career doing what you love doesn’t feel like a job at all, he told them.
“If you truly follow your heart, you never have to go to work.”