My name is Keith Gurgui and I was recently hired by the Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL) as the System’s Advocate. This position involves developing a network of community members who will advocate for the needs of the disability community. I am a graduate of Kingston High School, (2009), and I took part in the Ulster BOCES New Visions Health Career Exploration program. Growing up and being raised by two parents who are Registered Nurses fostered a great interest in the healthcare field and led me to pursue a degree in Physician’s Assistant Studies at Philadelphia University set to start in August of 2009. I was also an avid member of the Zena Sun-Devils swim team and a part-time lifeguard. I participated in Kingston High School’s varsity crew team throughout my four years there, and had the honor of being a captain for my last two years at KHS.
On August 10, 2009, two weeks before college was set to start, I sustained a spinal cord injury at Bethany Beach Delaware while diving into the water, rendering me paralyzed below my neck. I spent 17 days at Christianity Care Hospital in the ICU where I was initially put on a ventilator. After leaving the ICU, I was transferred to Helen Hayes Hospital for rehabilitation. I remained on the ventilator for 2 1/2 months while undergoing rigorous therapy (physical, occupational, respiratory, and speech) to maintain muscular, orthopedic, respiratory and cardiovascular health as well as to learn how to use assistive technology and a wheelchair. My first interaction with RCAL came during my stay at Helen Hayes, when I became enrolled in the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Medicaid Waiver Program (NHTD). After almost 6 months of therapy, I returned home to Lake Katrine to a newly modified and handicap accessible home.
With my accident and rehabilitation came a great understanding of life with a disability and needing rehabilitation, and a personal imperative to advocate for issues, knowledge, concerns, needs and rights of people with disabilities. I am currently pursuing a degree at Ulster County Community College after transferring credits I’d been working on since my accident at SUNY Empire State College in communications and political science.
I take a great interest in the field of Regenerative Medicine as well as stem cell research and the numerous sciences that encompass the field After acquiring a vehicle and its necessary modifications, my family and I were able to attend the 2010 World Stem Cell Summit hosted by Genetics Policy Institute in Detroit, Michigan. This was a 3 day convention and collaboration of scientists, doctors, politicians and advocates, promoting and presenting the most current efforts in regenerative medicine.
As I learn, I hope to spread awareness and public action geared towards the equality of individuals with disabilities, and the growth of the science that is turning sci-fi into reality and will soon be on the front lines of repairing and reversing some of the most debilitating conditions we suffer in today’s society. If you are interested in helping advocate for the disability community or would like more information, please call me at 845-256-8928, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org