Falling Into Success Through Hard Work and Drive
OKLAHOMA CITY—What do you do with your life, after you have fallen 100 feet off a rock cliff and sustained permanent multiple injuries? If you are Nick Jaques, you move forward with a determination and drive that would put most people to shame.
On April 18, 2003, Jaques was rock climbing Enchanted Rock in Austin, Texas when the bolts in the rock that he hooked his safety line into gave way. He fell, hitting the rock face and landed in a tree that stopped him from falling an additional 200 feet.
"I ended up having a T12 burst fracture in my back, and pretty much my left leg from the knee down was shattered along with multiple bruises and other injuries," Jaques said. "Altogether, I was in the Austin hospital for about five or six weeks. Then I got to go to the rehabilitation clinic just to teach me how to use the wheelchair, to get in and out of bed, catheterize myself and other issues for daily things like brushing my hair and taking a shower while I was still in a full body cast."
According to SpineUniverse.com Web site, a burst fracture is injury to the spine in which the vertebral body is severely compressed. The term "burst" implies that the margins of the vertebral body spread out in all directions. The T12 vertebra is below the rib cage in the chest area.
It was June when Jaques and his wife, Rachel, and their first-born son who was less than one year old, moved to Enid, Okla. There his mother-in-law, Kim Poslick and her husband, Gary Gosney, helped care for the family, and after several months they were able to provide the use of a small house rent-free while Jaques recuperated.
Poslick knew about the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and encouraged Jaques to find out more about their vocational rehabilitation and employment services for people with disabilities.
According to DRS Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Sarah Mitchell Tebow, this was the ideal time for Jaques to start his services with the agency, "The perfect time is as they are completing their rehab and are ready to get on with their life, get employment and look at the options they have and the services we offer.
"We sat down and planned what was best for him with his specific remaining abilities after his rehabilitation. It also gave him hope to know that even though he and Rachel were in debt up to their ears with medical bills that there was some way they wouldn't have to take on student loans to complete his college degree. I think that hope, along with the motivation he had, the motivation of his wife and the support in Enid, got him going and led him to complete his degree."
Jaques' motivation to get his degree was family — the love for his wife, the needs of his child and the support from his extended family for helping them through this time.
"He wanted to pay them back for all their help by getting his degree so that he could support his family," Tebow said. "
At one point, Nick told me that he was going to make me proud too, and that made me feel good that he was not only working for himself but other people."
DRS sent Jaques to a job fair in Oklahoma City where his resumé and good personality shined. He landed two jobs - a consulting job before he actually graduated and a little while later, the computer programming job he holds now with the internet payroll company, Paycom.
"He was very proactive. Once he understood what DRS is all about and what services are out there to obtain a degree and then a job — he ran with it," Tebow said.
Jaques completed his computer science degree in May 2006 with a minor in business administration.
"There's no way I would have done it in the amount of time that I did without the support DRS gave me — the amount of encouragement and just knowing they had my back," Jaques said. "As long as I continued to do good, [I knew] they would continue to support me."
Fighting back the tears, Tebow said, "He made me grow. I will never forget Nick and his family. They are family to me now. You get very close when you work through something like that, he made my job very fulfilling."
Jaques who has been with Paycom since May 2006 said, "You can't beat the people that I work with here. The company as a whole is great – very strong. They do the right things and look out for our customers. Plus, it's programming which is my passion now. I like to do it, and I am good at it."
William Kerber, the head of information technology at Paycom, wasn't aware that Jaques had a disability when he interviewed for the job.
"He was very curious about computer networking and was sort of pursuing that on his own. He had a real desire to find out about some of the things we do here," Kerber said. "Those were the qualities that really stood out, when we interviewed him. There wasn't any reason to believe that he wouldn't be able to go forward and actually do the projects, and he's done great."
When asked if he needed any special accommodations to do his job, Jaques stated, "They've done everything I've asked for. I got a nice chair for my back. My back can get really stiff. [Without the chair] I would be on pain meds all the time."
Jaques' home life is moving forward as well. After the accident, the doctors told Jaques there would be zero chance of him having another child. They were wrong. In addition to his first son, Blake Allen, now four, he and Rachel have Austin Reese, two, and Elizabeth Nicole, three months.
His wife is still steadfast by his side. Jaques said, "We have been married now five years on August 10th, and I couldn't be happier. My wife is the best decision I ever made in my life – one of those things that you know is right from the start."
Now it's Rachel's turn to go back to school after supporting the family during Jaques rehab and education. She's recently been accepted to a respiratory therapy program. Once she completes her training, she will be able to understand and help others in their time of crisis like those who helped her and her
For more information about the Department of Rehabilitation Services' vocational rehabilitation employment services call 800.845.8476. The number is accessible through telecommunications equipment for the deaf.