Success Despite Tragedy: How Transcription Changed This Man's Life - Part 1

success interviews Jun 06, 2017

This post is going to blow you away, folks. Yes, I am setting it up with high expectations because I KNOW it's going to inspire and encourage everyone.

Today I'm featuring the story of one of our TA students. But this story isn't like your typical success story. This story highlights the journey George took in finding Transcribe Anywhere -- not what happened after completing the course (although I have no doubt George is going to be incredibly successful).

George has one of the most encouraging stories I have ever heard. Needless to say, I was really excited when he wanted to share it! I'm completely honored that he is a part of the Transcribe Anywhere community.

Without further ado, here is Part 1 of George's story!

Best Foot Forward: An Amputee's Journey to Audio Transcription


How did I get here? I’m a 48-year-old semiretired radio broadcaster and writer. Until recently, I had been steadily employed since age 15, with a few brief exceptions. Twenty-two years ago, I sustained major injuries in a motorcycle collision (more about that later). After barely surviving, I struggled through rehabilitation. I adapted to the realities of my permanently compromised physical condition and made the accommodations necessary to return to work in radio.

One of my injuries became seriously aggravated a few years later. Already no stranger to pain by then, I made the unpleasant acquaintance of some new members of the anguish family with a massively ruptured disc in my back. Surgery provided some relief, but I reinjured myself after slipping into a spine-jarring fall. Unfortunately, the pinched nerves have haunted me ever since. In the last couple of years, my back pain has increased to the point that I am no longer able to work full-time.

Finding a New Way of Life

I cannot sit up at a desk for more than two or three hours without debilitating nerve pain. The pain can persist for hours after I lie down or recline in a chair. And so, oddly enough, the process of deterioration eventually caused a more difficult adjustment than the sudden initial trauma. Although I had once suffered major injuries requiring months of rehabilitation, I was able to return to the gainful (and sedentary) vocation of radio broadcasting.

If you can still work, even the loss of a leg and the sight in one eye can be no more than nuisance obstacles that can be overcome. But, life takes on a whole new urgency when you can no longer work enough to take care of your family. Or when you have nowhere else to go if you don’t pay those bills! Disability benefits are a lifesaver but may still be insufficient if that’s your only income. To ensure that my wife and I could meet our obligations, I needed to find a supplemental source of revenue.

Beginning the Journey

The search for that augmentation brought me to Janet Shaughnessy and Transcribe Anywhere, and now I’m poised to follow a new direction by entering the field of audio transcription. Multiple tributaries converged into the river of my transcribing destiny. Some of those are unique to me, but I suspect there are many similarities common to the experience of people who embark on the audio transcription journey. I researched many different work-from-home possibilities. And more than once, I almost “settled” for something less than ideal before I discovered Transcribe Anywhere.

I’ll be sharing highlights of the transition that brought me to audio transcription as the perfect solution for my needs. I'll then explain why Transcribe Anywhere is the perfect place to prepare myself for excellence in this new field. Special thanks to Janet for her great encouragement and the opportunity to tell my story. (Note from Janet: You're so welcome!)

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

Little did I realize that I was taking my first big step toward a future career in audio transcription when I was only 16 years old. Due to a delay with my tenth-grade registration, I ended up scrambling at the last minute to find an elective to fill out my schedule. By this time the classes I was interested in were filled, leaving me with three equally distasteful alternatives. Not enthusiastic about the prospect of maiming myself with power tools, I rejected woodshop “out of hand” (so to speak). I automatically recoiled from home economics since I was a boy (think back to the 1980s if that puzzles you).

And that left typing, also still stereotypically a female domain back then, when “home computers” were little more than toys and no one imagined the explosion of keyboard usage in the coming decades. But, I had loved writing since learning the basics, and I had just begun what would blossom into a decades-long career in radio broadcasting. (During that time, I would often value the typing skill I had acquired as an essential advantage in keeping ahead of hysterical copywriting deadlines.) Not to mention the fact that I would not always have my long-suffering mother available as an eager amanuensis. She would use her ancient Royal Model HH manual typewriter to painstakingly pound out the 10-pitch Pica transcription of the barely legible scrawls of her son’s fledgling literary genius.

Building the Foundation

The first day of class, I took my seat before one of the grand old IBM Selectric units. These were the durable iron workhorses of the American office since 1961. They featured the innovative round “type ball,” about the size of a golf ball, with the letters rising off the surface. The strike of a key would make the type ball tilt, rotate, and thump the corresponding letter onto the page. This electronically powered impact on the platen produced a satisfying sense of achievement. This sensation was all but lost to the ensuing age of delicate plastic spring-loaded keyboards. It's now an even more distant memory in this world of dainty touch-activation technology. And, alas, it gives the typist absolutely no kinetic return on the investment of a keystroke.

After working hard to learn the positioning of the letters and living down the instructor’s ignominious branding of me as a “lookie-loo,” I passed the final exam at 60 words per minute. I have maintained that speed to date without much variation. I was confident that this skill would give me a definite advantage when I decided to pursue a career in audio transcription. However, I would quickly discover that typing skill is only one of the indispensable prerequisites to being a good transcriptionist.

There was much more to learn, but I had to find the right place to get that education. I'll dive into that more later.

Stumped (in more ways than one)

I was riding my motorcycle to work in 1995 when a minivan made a left turn against the brightness of the early morning sun just above the horizon. I entered the intersection at the same moment and was broadsided. My left leg was mangled between the front of the van and the engine of the bike. In the ensuing tumble I broke my right shoulder, fractured my unprotected skull, and came to rest on my back. I started convulsing in seizures caused by the head injury, suffocating after swallowing my tongue, and bleeding profusely. My life would have ended quickly without the immediate intervention of the local hospital’s chief emergency room nurse. She was following close behind on her way to work.

I was on a ventilator for 15 days, and after three major surgeries, I was brought to consciousness. Retrograde amnesia from the concussion had erased all memory of the incident. So from my perspective, I had left my driveway one morning and slowly emerged from a psychedelic dream world over two weeks later. Upon waking up, I made the disturbing discovery that my left leg had been amputated below the knee, my left femur was stabilized with a rod in the center of the bone from hip to knee, and (among other things) I had permanently lost most of the sight in my left eye from damage to the visual cortex of my brain.

The Road to Recovery

After months of physical rehabilitation, I was able to return to work. I learned how to walk with a prosthetic leg and otherwise adapt to my injuries. A few years later, one of those injuries worsened and brought me back to the hospital. I had to undergo emergency surgery on a massively ruptured disc in my back. Five years later, I reinjured it slipping and falling. Surgery was no longer an option, and I received only temporary respite from a few cortisone injections. Finally, I returned to walking with crutches for therapeutic spinal decompression. I managed to continue working as a dispatcher for the next decade, but my condition deteriorated. I am to the point where I cannot sit up at a desk for more than two or three hours without being in pain.

When I was no longer able to do full-time work, I had to find other sources of income. Those bills kept right on coming! I successfully applied for disability benefit but still needed supplemental income so my wife and I could meet our obligations. I must do something productive during those precious three hours in which I am able to sit at a desk!

And so I decided to take the plunge into the work-at-home ocean of opportunity. Before I discovered Transcribe Anywhere, I had to navigate around some common pitfalls in the internet jungle. Next time, I’ll cover some of the major ones—and why Transcribe Anywhere stands out amidst the dizzying array of options.

Our Take

We are so inspired by George's journey that led him to Transcribe Anywhere. He never let his obstacles get in the way of his success -- or lost his amazing sense of humor. Hat's off to you, George!

Your Turn

Do you have any comments or questions for George? Leave them below! And be sure to check out Part 2 of George's story!

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