January 11, 2005
Quadriplegic's 28-year career serves as inspiration for physically-challenged workers
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Whether it’s a voice over the phone or a smiling face behind the front desk, for the past 28 years Lamar Myers has been the first contact many people have with Methodist Rehabilitation Center.
Few people can tell the story of the Jackson hospital’s long history of rebuilding lives better than Myers, who has been a quadriplegic since a 1971 car accident.
He was the 58th patient admitted to the Methodist Rehab when it opened in 1975, and one of the first people with disabilities to join the hospital’s work force.
“I’ll never forget it. They discharged me on a Wednesday and they told me, ‘By the way, you have to come back Monday. You got the job at the desk,’” he said. Myers, then 20, had gone through a training program while at the hospital to be a PBX operator.
Staff and friends honored Myers at a reception for long service to the hospital, which he credits with giving him back his life.
“Lamar is an inspiration, not just to physically challenged workers everywhere, but to all of us who are inspired by his dedication and commitment,” said Mark Adams, president and CEO of Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “He has made an invaluable contribution that will have a lasting impact on this hospital. For 28 years he’s been the first person you see as you enter the building, the gentle voice on the phone who helps you find who you need and he is the one who has offered encouragement to thousands of patients and their families. We are all proud and honored to have worked with him.”
Myers was a 16-year-old high school basketball star when a devastating car accident changed his life. “They told me I was never going to walk again. It was a life altering experience,” he said. “To go from being a basketball player to paralyzed overnight—it was like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. It took me seven years to really understand, this is it. I had to make the best of it.”
And that’s what he did. His family took him home to Morton, where they cared for him as best they could. After two years he was moved to a hospital in Vicksburg and at that point, Methodist Rehab was on the horizon. “I had a lot of family and friends who really supported me. They never stopped coming to visit me. And after I got to Vicksburg the doctors kept telling me, ‘They are building the rehab. We are going to get you in there,’” he said.
He spent eight months at the hospital in therapy, learning to regain as much independence as possible. And once he was discharged, he was ready to go to work. He returned to Morton to live with his parents, but his father drove him to his job at “the rehab” every day, sometimes waiting for him to finish his shift.
After a couple of years he was able to get his own apartment close to the hospital. He still didn’t have transportation, so he would drive his power wheelchair to work. “I would come, whether it was raining, snowing, whatever. I had to get myself to work. I would bring dry clothes and sometimes I’d have to go up on the third floor and change my clothes. But I had a job and I had to get there,” he said.
He got married last September and he and his wife live in Gluckstadt. His father lives with them, something he really enjoys. “He took care of me all those years, now I get to take care of him,” he said.
He has had opportunities to leave Methodist Rehab and work for other employers, but he said he always knew where he really wanted to be.
“The rehab promised me a new life and they came through. It was a dream come true.”
Mark Adams, president and CEO of Methodist Rehabilitation Center, presents a certificate of appreciation to Lamar Myers, an employee who is retiring after 28 years at the hospital. Myers, one of the hospital’s first patients and employees serves as an inspiration to other physically challenged workers.