24 years ago, I was unlucky to be involved in a five-car road accident that left seven people injured, I being the most injured. It left me in shock initially since I did not know how much the accident had affected me. I was seated in the back seat when it all happened, and I thought, “Why not get out and give a hand to the others.” With my experience in the medical field from working as a Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Technician, I thought I could lend a helping hand.
Summoning all my energy, I tried to get out of the car but I could not move. I felt a sharp pain through my chest and I blacked out, I can barely remember what happened thereafter. What I can recollect from the hours that followed is that the company I worked with were the first on the scene and we knew each other.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I was in and out of it for a while but what I remember clearly as the light of day was when the doctor said that I would never walk again. I was diagnosed as a C6-C7 quadriplegic which meant that the 8 months that followed were going to be spent in hospital and in rehabilitation centres.
Rediscovering my career
I always had a passion for music, I loved it and wanted my career to follow that path. But I was not in luck as the instruments that I had mastery in (keyboard and trumpet) needed fine finger control which I had lost due to the accident. I was in search of something that I’d do to be productive.
Six years down the line, a mate who worked in the radio invited me for an interview to share my story of how I was starting my own electronics business. After show, I asked him how I could join the radio industry. He told me that he had started his own show and paid for the airtime. I then thought to myself, “why not do this?”
From then on, I started my own radio show, Meeting the Challenge, which ran through to 2005. My show was focused on people with disabilities and how they tackled their day-to-day activities. However, it was a great challenge, as I had to seek my own funding and run the show alone.
In 2006, I decided to learn how to get paid for what I loved doing so I went to media school to learn some bits of broadcasting from the professionals. But there was a slight hiccup. There were parts of the program that I could not undertake since I had lost fine finger mobility. More so, accessibility was a problem for me because in some instances, I could hardly fit in the studio due to my wheelchair. It was for these reasons that I could not be able to take part in the program. I felt like my dreams had been shattered, leaving me discouraged, frustrated and devastated. It dawned on me that I could not do it, it would not work for me.
A few ways down the road, one event leading to the next, I found myself living 15 miles away from the campus. I thought to myself, "Why not give it a shot?". Even if I fail, I can say that at least I tried." The course took me seven months and I graduated from the school with flying colours setting the highest records the school had ever seen. That is how I got my name on the school's wall of excellence.
The job search
Now began the much dreaded job search. A search that saw me send out my CV and audition tapes to several employers with no success. It was discouraging to the extent that I almost gave up. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I got a call from the school's placement director, informing me that there was a vacancy at a radio station for the post of a news production assistant. I knew I was not going to land the job, but I knew that the interview would be a great learning experience.
The interview that changed my life
On the day of the interview, I arrived at CBS Radio on time. I was greeted cordially by the news director who handed me a form to fill out saying he would be back in 20 minutes. I stared at the form and pen, not knowing what to do due to my finger movement, which I had lost. I could write using a splint, but the form had small boxes that had to be filled with precision. Luckily for me, my wife had insisted on staying behind waiting for me during the interview just in case I needed anything.
I rushed down to where she was parked and she helped me fill out the form quickly. As quickly as I had rushed down, I went back up, in the elevator of course. When I got back, I found the news director waiting for me, wondering where I had disappeared to. I had to lie and say I was in the lavatory. Later on that day, I called the placement director to thank her for looping me in on the opening. I had no hope at all of landing the job though.
To my utter surprise, I did! This was the turning point in my life. Later on, after working at CBS for a few months, I landed another job at NBC. I worked the two jobs for a while before fully moving to NBC on a management role.
One challenge with the new job was when I had to interview people face to face and I would be so low in my chair. However, thanks to seat elevation technology, I can easily elevate to eye level during interviews.
The epitome of my career
My name is Paul Amadeus Lane and I am the current Bureau chief at ABC news radio in addition to being the host. Over time, I have interviewed many prominent people (from Dr. Maya Angelou to Jerome Bettis, the great American football player), covered major events, been an Abilities Expo ambassador and event moderator. To say the truth, I have had the time of my life.
Never should you let the fear of the unknown bar you from doing great things!