Kayla Olson is wise for her 21 years of age. She perceptively says, "You learn things just when you need to know them.’ Learning, for example, which door on campus to enter a building, where ramps are versus stairs and which rehabilitation hospital to go to after sustaining a spinal cord injury. After a farm accident in the summer of 2017, Kayla was determined to make it back to college that fall without missing a single day, which she did thanks to an intensive five weeks at Craig and the help of the Craig Hospital Alumni Scholarship Program.
Unlike many young adults, Kayla knows just what she wants to do for a career, down to the details. She’s in her second year of pharmacy school. She has two years to go to earn her PharmD or Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
“After graduating, I plan to move close to my hometown of Coldwater, Kansas, and work in an independent pharmacy for a few years. Then I hope to open my own pharmacy,” says Kayla.
Kayla has wanted to be a pharmacist since her junior year in high school. Her aunt is a pharmacist, and she shadowed her local pharmacy, finding the task of compounding new formulations of drugs to be extra rewarding.
“There was a cancer patient who had nausea and vomiting from her medication, so we made a cream that she could apply to her wrist,” Kayla says. “Finding ways to help people who can’t swallow pills is exciting.”
Thanks to the Craig team, her family’s belief, love and support, and her own strong will (she describes herself as "a very stubborn human") and determination, Kayla lives independently. She gets around campus in her wheelchair, fixes popped wheels, drives her truck and even rides horses. As a past member of her college rodeo team, she hopes to get back to roping someday.
“Whatever I wanted to master, Craig therapists helped me do it. If one technique didn’t work, they’d strategize another way to do it. They even helped me learn how to transfer into my saddle and relearn how to swing my rope,” Kayla says.
Craig’s Driving and Adaptive Transportation program taught Kayla how to learn to drive with adaptive equipment and make transfers from her wheelchair into her truck and into car seats. Physical therapists and occupational therapists taught her daily living skills, like how to open building doors and how to transfer onto her bed, onto a shower chair and more. In short, Craig helped her become independent and fast—even fitting her wheelchair with a SmartDrive that turns on when she needs a little motorized boost to get around her hilly campus.
Without the help of Craig’s Alumni Scholarship Program as well as scholarships provided by her hometown and her state’s vocational rehab department, it would have been very difficult for Kayla to return to school. Pharmacy school is expensive, plus she has medications and adaptive equipment costs.
“I am so grateful for the scholarships I have received from Craig. It makes me feel like people care about me, and that’s a good feeling,” Kayla says. “I hope that one day I will be able to swap sides and be the donor instead of the recipient, and help someone return to school. It is so important to continue with your life.”