Meet Steve Kerley

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Kearley Profile

Steve, Patient Advocate

"Life doesn't happen like it does in the movies...and that's OK."

If you told a 17-year-old Steve Kearley he’d be in an Oscar-nominated sports documentary, he might not have been that surprised. He just wouldn’t have expected it to be about wheelchair rugby.

It had been a typical Friday night for the promising high-school footballer. “We were hanging out in cars, listening to loud music, when a buddy pulled up and asked if I’d like to go for a ride”, he remembers. They ended up flipping the car into a ditch. Steve survived with a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed from the chest down.

In the movies, you see someone having a catastrophic event and walking a few days later”, he says. “I learned that that’s Hollywood and not everyone’s story pans out that way.

With almost no movement in his hands, Steve had to relearn how to do everything. “I had this real no-quit mindset,” he says. “I was going to get through this and live a normal a life as I could. I’m the kind of guy that when I say I’ll do something I’ll do it."

An early setback for Steve was when his doctor made the decision for him to use an indwelling catheter. “Whether it was hard-headedness or vanity, I didn’t want to be rolling around with a bag of pee strapped to me”, he says. “I spoke to the doctor and found out about intermittent catheters. That was my next challenge.” At the time, he says, the only catheters available were red-rubber ones with lubricant. The lubricant was difficult for him to apply, “but working with the nursing team at night I slowly learned the best technique that worked for me."

"It was huge when I felt confident enough to go out in public again."

Steve would soon find his next passion: wheelchair rugby, or as it was known then – Murderball. “The cool thing about the sport is it’s made for people with quadriplegia and is full contact – you’d get into chairs and ram into each other. When I first saw it, I was like ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got to learn more about this’.

Steve didn’t just learn more about it, he worked his way up to the US national team and won gold in international competitions. It was in the build-up to the 2004 Paralympic games that Steve and his teammates featured in the 2005 film, Murderball. “I developed some great friendships”, he says. “It felt normal, if that makes sense, being around other people in a similar situation. We were all learning this new way of life together.

It’s these learnings and experiences Steve shares with people as a Patient Advocate, a role he started after nearly two decades working in catheter sales. “The coolest thing about working in the industry was being able to learn about newer and better catheter technologies”, he says. “There are some really discrete products out there, like the GentleCath Air™. You could be holding the package in your hand and nobody would ever know you’re holding a catheter.

Above all, Steve says, he feels blessed that his job allows him to help others. “People need to know that life is still out there, and it’s still what you make of it”, he says. 

"I want people to know they’ve got this. Look at me. Go out there and live your life to the fullest. Aspire. Dream. Work towards your goals, however big or small"


Support from Steve

"I can tell you from experience it gets better"

Adjusting to cathing can be tough, with a range of practical, physical and emotional challenges. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Call and talk to a member of the me+ support team today. Call 1-800-422-8811 (M-F, 8:30 AM-7:00 PM ET).