CINCINNATI - “I got a second chance, clearly.”
That’s the way Kyle Combs, who graduates from UC with a BS in advanced medical imaging technology (AMIT) on Saturday, sums up his life—all 23 years of it. But he is indeed wise, and strong in spirit beyond those years.
At 14, Combs was a freshman at McNicholas High School in Mount Washington. He was also a semi-professional motocross racer; competing on a national level with a sponsor and a promising road ahead. He was racing at his best when the worst happened—another racer took him out on a pass.
“You just wake up in this hospital bed,” Combs says of spending over a week in a coma and three and a half months in the hospital with a severe traumatic brain injury and partial paralysis.
“That was the scariest time of my life,” he says, recalling the grim prognosis of likely not being able to finish high school or being able to walk again on his own volition. Or, to be able to even tie his own shoes.
But where there’s a will …
Over the course of a year, Kyle underwent grueling physical therapy and regained all of his fine motor skills. He also graduated on time with his class, with honors, and applied to UC’s very competitive AMIT program, a College of Allied Health Sciences degree in the the department of analytical and diagnostic sciences. On average 25 slots are available, with more than double the amount of applicants from all over the country.
“I just went in with a goal and followed it straight though,” Kyle says, as if barriers are naturally meant to be pushed to the wayside.
“Coming into the program, Kyle possessed strong interpersonal skills, a commitment to his education and a focus and maturity beyond others his age,” says program director Alan Vespie. “He was the first student in the AMIT program's history to combine the nuclear medicine and sectional imaging modalities.”
That dedication led him to an internship at Christ Hospital’s imaging lab, where he is now employed as a PET/CT technologist. He still races bicycles, road and mountain bikes, but “nothing motorized.”
And, as Kyle approaches graduation, he does so with a smile and the eager willingness of someone who has overcome some of the heaviest barriers one can find to succeed.
“I chose this profession because I felt a debt to the medical community...so many people participated in my rehabilitation.”