Michael Roberts: JumpStarting Career and Confidence

Michael Roberts’ life began with a heavy burden, diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and high blood pressure at just two weeks old. But through the love and support of his mother, he faced each challenge with resilience. Things changed in 8th grade when Michael’s legs and feet became so swollen that he couldn’t walk. Michael was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined that Michael needed a kidney transplant. He had to go on dialysis at just the age of 13.

After enduring 11 months of dialysis, Michael received a second chance at life through a kidney transplant. For nearly a decade, the transplanted kidney served him well until he required another transplant in 2019. Despite these setbacks, Michael persevered, though doubts about his future lingered, particularly regarding employment due to his medical history.

An Uncertain Future

Due to his transplant, Michael’s body is not able to handle manual labor. He often found himself doubting his ability to enter the workforce. Ultimately, his mother inspired him to take a new route. “My mother has always been a motivator and a nice person. She always believes in me, even sometimes more than I do. She knew I was capable of doing more, so she told me about the JumpStart Program,” Michael shared. 

The JumpStart Program is an employment and career development service through GTF that helps people affected by organ transplantation re-enter the workforce through guidance and training. Michael’s mother knew it would be the perfect way to find him employment suitable for his transplant. Through his mom, he connected with JumpStart Coordinator Dr. Ossie Lock-Moss. “We had a great conversation,” said Michael. “She emailed me several job links and helped me regain confidence in my ability to find employment.” Suddenly, Michael had a chance to rewrite his narrative and defy the limitations imposed by his illness.

Regarding the program, Ossie explained that “JumpStart plays a major role in helping clients reinvent themselves and their careers. Often people will look for a job resembling what they did before their transplant. However, after being transplanted, they find themselves not able to do the same work. That’s when career coaching comes into play. I like to encourage the clients to consider something they have always wanted to do or something new. Showing them that they have options seems to always help.”

A New Beginning

After leveraging her connections and diligently searching, Ossie was able to find a potential opening at General Mills. She facilitated a job interview for Michael, illuminating a path to employment once obscured by doubt. After training and words of encouragement, Michael aced the interview and received an offer. He had not only landed a job but an opportunity to re-discover his self-worth. Michael shared, “I’ve been working at General Mills since March and I love it.” “It’s a night shift, which works out great because I’m a night person, it’s also part-time so it’s not overly stressful.” 

Through JumpStart Michael was able to find a job that fit his needs when he had begun thinking that may not be possible. He explained, “I’m grateful for GTF and the JumpStart Program and I’m so glad to have a job. It feels good to be working and proud of what I’m doing. I’m extremely happy that the JumpStart Program exists, it’s helped me and a lot of other people.” The significance of Michael’s employment transcends mere hours on the clock; it symbolizes his resurgence from the grips of kidney disease.

Learn more about the JumpStart Program here: JumpStart Program | Georgia Transplant Foundation (gatransplant.org)