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Home | Episode #6
USD Has My Back
September 12, 2018 | Student Producers:

Alexandra Thompson and Grace McDonald
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USD Has My Back
Non-traditional USD student Jeff Bartrom experiences post-Iraq injuries and is surprised by the USD community. (5 minutes)
Jeff Bartrom

Basically, the image that I foreshadowed when I first visited the campus still always rings true to me, unfortunately. Not to fit everyone in a box, but it's someone that does come from money that has, you know, a nice car that just really doesn't have to worry about too much. Um, on the weekends they're flying to see their friends or something like that. Um, now I know that not to be totally true because I have met so many, like in my role, but I mean, the reason I got this perception is because I parked my little Toyota Corolla next to a Maserati or a Lambo or a Porsche and I do feel the inadequacies. So it does reinforce that stereotype that is known here at USD, but there's plenty of us that are not in that role. 

Like I said, you guys know I'm not your traditional student. Uh, I mean I've written a book. I guess I'm a public speaker. I travel and fight for veterans, troubled youth, battered women's shelter, help homeless veterans, run a nonprofit. That's what I do, and on top of coming to school, working and family and everything else. But yeah, my life is pretty much of a service to everyone else because I'm just grateful for still being alive after my deployments. 

Two years ago I came to class the very first day. I was in Dr. Pace's class and I was so excited to start a brand new semester. I'd met all my professors and everything and I went home that night and I was sweeping the floor, kind of tweaked my back, felt funny. I woke up the next morning, paralyzed from the waist down. Um, my injuries in Iraq had finally ruptured. My spine had collapsed and crushed down on the spinal nerve column causing me to lose complete mobility from the waist down. And so me being me, I crawled myself to the car and I used my cane that I was walking with and I drove myself down here to San Diego, to the VA (Veterans) hospital and I crawled into the hospital to get help. I said, I need help. I can't walk. I didn't know what was going on. 

And so they immediately took me back. They found that my spine had fractured in seven different places. The vertebrae and the disc had exploded, and from that point on I was like, wow, this is serious. You know, it's like, am I ever going to be able to walk again? They said, oh yeah, we're just going to have back surgery. I immediately notified the student disability section here at USD. Within 20 minutes I had the university president calling my wife asking if everything was okay. I had all the professors saying, we're here for you, whatever you need. Um, yeah. It was just every center was like on it. I mean, like here I am laying in a hospital bed paralyzed, you know, this is not how I want, I envision my semester going at all, especially being a veteran student that, you know, you're kind of held to a different level in almost some sense. 

And so from that point on, I knew USD was, had my back. I came back after three weeks, relearning to walk again and everything else. And I tried to come back for a week and it was just too unbearable. I couldn't sit in a sitting position, so Dr. Pace and all the professors, they said "Just do what you can. Here's the homework assignments." I literally was allowed to do my homework at my own pace, but I still was able to catch up by the end of the semester. I missed almost two and a half, three months of schooling, but I still finished it by the Christmas holiday and took my finals on time. So USD really has the students backings and they had my back at that time. So for that, that holds a special spot in my heart because I mean no other school, if you went to SDSU, UCLA, any of those, they're not going to do that. Here they care, you know, it's, it's a big family. So I was really happy about that.