EXETER —Kiel Eigen was active and athletic as a young boy. He played baseball, football and basketball.
But on Sept. 12, 2006, at the age of 14, his life changed forever.
Eigen was playing for the Old Forge High School freshman football team as a cornerback when he went up to make a tackle and collided facemasks with an opposing player, causing Eigen’s neck to whip back and throw him to the ground.
Right away, he knew something wasn’t right.
“I felt pins, like what you feel when your foot falls asleep, going down my lower extremities,” he said. “Once I went down, I knew I couldn’t get up. When the doctor came over, I could feel him touching my lower extremities, but I couldn’t get up. I was taken to the (Geisinger Community Medical Center) in Scranton and the doctor told me I broke my neck and I was going to get lifelighted to Philadelphia.”
Eigen underwent immediate surgery in Philadelphia for a C5 spinal cord injury, spending 13 days in the Intensive Care Unite (ICU) before moving to Thomas Jefferson Allied Services for rehabilitation where he stayed for a month.
It would be three years before Eigen would regain strength in his upper body, but his legs were completely paralyzed.
Now 22, Eigen currently works as a marketing coordinator with Quantum Rehab in Exeter, which specializes in mobility products for the disabled.
With luck, Eigen, who has been utilizing Quantum Rehab products since before he settled in his new career, was able to meet with Product Marketing General Manager Richard McLane. He was later offered a job working with Quantum Rehab to offer input and help with ideas for new products.
He said his hiring with Quantum Rehab was that silver lining he’d always dreamt of.
“When I was looking for that light at the end of the tunnel, I realized (being paralyzed) isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me; I can still live my life,” Eigen said. “Yeah, it’s a tragedy and an unfortunate event, but it’s not the end and there’s a light in the end of the tunnel. I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to have been given this platform and reach the disabled community.”
Eigen has offered input on numerous projects. One he takes a personal interest in is the new iLevel technologies wheelchairs.
“The previous product took close to 45 seconds to be fully eye-level elevated, which was ridiculous,” said Eigen. “We almost cut this in half, taking only 24 seconds to go from seated to fully elevated and we’re working on a lot faster speed. Also, before the new technology came out, you could only go from 0.5 to 1 mile an hour when moving, but now with this eye level-technology, you can go up to 3 1/2 miles per hour and move faster.”
The new products, Eigen said, are in production now and will be on the market shortly.
Aside from working at Quantum Rehab, Eigen also enjoys lifting weights and exercising. He graduated from King’s College earlier this year with a degree in criminal justice and hopes to attend law school this fall at either Temple University or Drexel University.
Despite a life-changing event at such a young age, Eigen has always managed to look at the positives in life and said helping those in similar conditions as himself has been a blessing.
“I love it,” he said. “Given this platform and being able to do what I do, I just want to be able to grow a stronger reputation with the company. I want to get my name out there, spread the word and help anybody who needs it. That was one of the biggest things I looked for when I was in a similar position as someone, is in terms of who’s done it before. How did they overcome it? How are they adjusting to life in their new form? I’m very fortunate and blessed to be in the position I’m in now and I’m definitely not going to take this for granted.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher