Mentor Spotlight: Kevin Olson

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 11, 2020 # PFSP, Peer Spotlight

Whenever Kevin Olson meets someone with paralysis or just someone who looks down and out, he gives them his business card which reads ‘If not now, when?’ and ‘Been there, done that’ and includes Olson’s contact information.

“I decided a long time ago that if I ever had the opportunity to help someone, I would,” says Olson. “Here I am, I can’t move below my neck, and I still have high hopes and expectations. When others don’t, I want to inspire them to realize there is life after injury.”

Almost ten years ago, a car accident left Olson with a C1, C2 incomplete injury, the same level of injury as Christopher Reeve. He also has a fused C3 vertebrae.

“I essentially died after the accident, and I flat-lined again on the way to the hospital,” says Olson who was 45 years old at the time. “I have had to overcome one hurdle after another including multiple surgeries and episodes of pneumonia. As a mentor, I can truly relate to many of the issues my peers [individuals who are being mentored] experience.”

Although Olson has faced many personal ups and downs, he’s managed to stay positive, a trait he partly credits to how he was raised and partly to his natural demeanor. In 2015, his sister introduced him to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and he applied to be a Peer & Family Support Program mentor.

“I enjoy being able to give back, and I wanted to help even more people,” says Olson who has participated in multiple advisory panels for medical students, sharing his experiences living with paralysis.Erin Snyder and Kevin Olson

Olson’s first peer was a shy woman named Erin who also lives in the Phoenix area and has a similar level injury. In the four years since they were first connected, the two have become good friends and meet every couple of months for lunch. Erin recently became a certified Peer & Family Support Program mentor herself.

Olson is grateful that the Reeve Foundation was able to connect him with Erin.

“We never would have found each other otherwise,” says Olson. “But it is up to the peer to make the first move and reach out to the Reeve Foundation. Talking to someone who can truly relate to you makes a phenomenal difference, and the sooner the better.”

Olson also points out that his mentor relationships work both ways. His peers have taught him a lot as well. “We help each other. We support each other, and we try to share a good laugh along the way. Only another person with paralysis can relate to having an itch and not able to scratch it.”

For more information on the Peer & Family Support Program and to request a mentor, please go to https://www.christopherreeve.org/get-support/get-a-peer-mentor.