Today we’d like to introduce you to Taejun Lee.
Taejun, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Born and raised in LA/East LA/SGV area I grew up with a rich and diverse background but I did not have that one community where I fit in. Growing up I did various things on top of studies such as being in the school band, playing volleyball, dancing, working on cars, volunteering, playing games, etc… I was doing what was needed to get to college, what I thought I needed to go toward my journey as an adult. Right before college, I got into a big car accident with my two friends that left me paralyzed from the neck down with 4% chance of getting any return.
Having never been in the hospital for a serious injury before I had the full treatment, from lungs collapsing, infections, and a pressure sore to name a few. After about five months of no movement I finally had little return, this, in turn, got the ball rolling working my way from a power chair then worked my way up from power wheelchair, wheelchair, walker, crutches and now with weakness on my right side but getting around on my own power most of the time. I slowly started my life again, went to community college then came to Cal State University of Fullerton. While I was at CSUF decided on a Health Science major to find out more about myself while working toward my goal of a bachelor’s degree.
During my time at CSUF, I had rechartered a community service co-ed fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Omega Sigma Chapter along with being active with clubs on campus. In my later years of finishing my major I had to do volunteering hours, I kept in close contact with my old Physical Therapist and decided to volunteer at my old rehab facility. While in the therapy gym I saw the Occupational Therapist working on a bunch of things like dressing yourself, games, feeding yourself and that is where I remembered what I did in the Occupational Therapy sessions, I remember the struggles and frustration because I couldn’t get my shirt on, feed myself and play a simple game, now I got why they were doing it. That’s when I knew I wanted to be the OT profession.
I researched what I needed to do and what school I needed to attend, good thing my major did the prerequisites for any OT program but I found out the cost of the Masters program and the did not want to spend more time in my life so I found an alternative, OT assistant, my prerequisites still applied and by the time I got my bachelor’s I could start the program at Santa Ana. The two years went by quickly due to my first-hand knowledge of therapy. Now as a therapist I know how it feels to be in my client’s shoes. With the limits of current healthcare, I was not able to share everything I wanted to so I created a blog http://www.onedayatatime365.org/ to inform and empower others in the community through my own experiences. I live one day a time and I try to instill the same principles to my clients to do the same during their hardest moments.
As an Asian and person with a disability (PWD), I know that I do not fit into any mold and want others to see that they don’t have to. Make sure to surround yourself with great people and create your own opportunities, I am building a new opportunity for myself by giving back to the community I grew up around seeing the need for access to healthcare in the dance community and help form Offset Med. It is collaborative of different healthcare professionals to give a more practical approach to health and longevity. I am not one thing but many things, PWD, healthcare professional, adaptive athlete, advocate, and a friend for anyone.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
If it was a smooth road then it would not have led to where I am today, Healthwise I have gotten my share of infections, organ failures, sickness, and even to this day I do not have full control of my bodily function but when you look at me you would not be able to tell. On my best days are when my body would tell me nope and remind me of my disability.
Career-wise was difficult when the profession that is helping people would see my disability as a disadvantage, also venturing outside the traditional health setting is still difficult but I am still trying to show others the value of someone in the disabled community and healthcare in the corporate and mainstream work settings. Financial wise, living off disability/social security is not what you would think, you are barely surviving. To get off of it is also another issue where the system tries to keep you in with all the hurdles and paperwork, praying not to get hurt again or having to go back to it. Many of these challenges helped me into who I am and I use it in everyday life whether working, doing a race, or just living my day.
Please tell us about Offset Med. What should we know?
Offset Med is my company I have founded with some business partners. It is a community-based network of sports medicine professionals equipped to provide practical injury prevention education for the urban athlete. Our Mission is to mobilize an interdisciplinary team approach to address sports performance, recovery, and injury care. Our Vision is to raise the standard of care for movers and shakers everywhere. We see who we call the urban athlete which are creatives, performers, artists, and entertainers who strive to maintain their peak performance.
They are not simply defined by the game they play or the art they express. Urban athletes are innovators and evolve their craft to reflect modern expressions of culture. We tackle the issue through three ways. One provides education through workshops and online content. On-site staffing of events. Lastly training and one on one meetings. We are most proud of giving back to the dance community and being an accessible resource for them. We are different because of the multidisciplinary team of different health backgrounds, also my personal experience with adapting and disabilities.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The willingness to adapt and keep striving on, as I like to say take it one day at a time.