Adapting with Assistive Technology: Bobby Kwak’s Story
After Bobby Kwak sustained a spinal cord injury, Shepherd Center’s Assistive Technology Center helped him return to work as an accountant.
Bobby Kwak is a Suwanee, Georgia native, a father, a husband, and an accountant. He works hard to provide for his family and strives to excel at his job. So, when he sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) after a fall, his top priority was getting back to work.
On October 30, 2022, Bobby Kwak pulled into his driveway with a sigh. It had been a long day at work, and the day’s activities had been so time-consuming, he’d forgotten to eat. He was ready to relax, have a beer, and turn in for the night. As he was getting ready for bed that evening, Bobby fainted, hitting his head on the door and the floor, and sustaining a C-2 level spinal cord injury. After his son found him, his wife called 911 and Bobby was rushed by ambulance to WellStar North Fulton Medical Center in Roswell, Georgia.
When Bobby transferred to Shepherd Center in November 2022, he was not hopeful. Being the sole breadwinner for his family, he was unsure how he would support them and pay his medical bills. Bobby had lost most function in both of his arms, making returning to his job in time for the impending tax season seem impossible. So, when he met Leah Barid, OTR/L, ATP, in Shepherd Center’s Assistive Technology Center, he was skeptical she could help.
“There was no room for failure,” Bobby explains. “I was totally against using the technology. I told Leah that unless I could use my arms, hands, and keyboard, it was useless. But she persisted and was so positive when I was so negative. So, I gave it a shot.”
With the deadline of tax season looming, the duo worked together to find innovative ways for Bobby to return to his life and his job.
“To say Bobby was skeptical would be putting it mildly,” says Leah. “He was very specific about what he wanted to do, and he wanted to use the least adaptive equipment. But, once I got him in the lab, he was up for anything I threw his way.”
As Barid introduced Bobby to new technology, like voice commands on his phone to open his apps and send emails, he began to feel more optimistic. As his hopes began to rise, so did his willingness to try new things. That’s when Barid showed him the GlassOuse system, a hands-free, wireless device that tracks the user’s head movements to move the mouse cursor accordingly and allows the user to select content with a bite switch. Now Bobby could navigate through Excel documents and type emails. Barid also set Bobby up with Dragon software. This speech recognition tool allows users to turn the spoken word into written text, providing Bobby with another way to use his computer hands-free.
“Eventually, when Leah sold me on a couple pieces of technology, things took off,” Bobby says. “It provided so much hope. I was very positive about being able to work at that point.”
With the help of adaptive technology and the support of his company, Landis+Gyr, Bobby returned to work as a senior manager of tax accounting, even working while continuing therapy at Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program as an inpatient.
“They were just so supportive of me, and I can’t thank them enough,” Bobby says. “The CFO and my boss came to see me when I was at Shepherd Center. They purchased all my technology so I could do my job, allowed me to work from home, and continue to provide support. I feel like I’m slower, still learning how to do things, but I’m just as productive as I was before.”
As Bobby prepares to cross the finish line of this tax season and return to Shepherd Center for outpatient therapy, he reflects on his journey and the care he has received.
"I just want to thank all my therapists, nurses, and techs. I can’t thank them enough for doing a job that is usually thankless,” Bobby explains. “Especially people like Amber in the ICU, she was so patient with me when I couldn’t speak. I had to go through some dark times, but my wife, son, and the people at Shepherd Center really helped me through it all.”
Written by Lindsey Rieben
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.