VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Eight hours a day and six days a week, 48-year-old Lisa Olson searches for a job from her home in Virginia Beach. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University where she worked for 19 years.
Ten years ago, the scene was dramatically different when she was interviewed by Nexstar’s WAVY.
“Hello, my name is Lisa Olson. I’m the Career Services and Quality Manager at Regent Univesity’s Robertson School of Management and I am Hampton Roads,” said Olson for the closing line in her segment.
Last year, Olson joined the ranks of the unemployed when her position at Regent, a job she loved, was eliminated.
Olson was hopeful the pandemic-inspired work-from-home trend would bode well for her since her daily routine requires a few extra steps. She has applied for about 400 jobs and has sat for some seventy interviews. Not one job has been offered.
“I have experienced quite significant rejection in these last probably 11 months. It’s been very discouraging and very disheartening,” said Olson.
Crestfallen, she turned to WAVY for help in her 11-month-long effort to find a job.
The story of her life began on an unknown day in 1974. One morning, doctors at a hospital in southern India opened the doors of the facility only to discover someone had abandoned an infant on the steps of the hospital. That little girl, with no known name, was born without hands and legs. It was suspected the child was exposed to Thalidomide, a drug that was given to pregnant women in America in the 1950s and 1960s to treat nausea. Thousands of children were born with severe deformities.
The infant’s case was presented to a panel of doctors who discussed a grim prognosis.
“The head of pediatric medicine told his staff to euthanize me,” said Olson in an interview from her motorized wheelchair. “He believed my body would weaken and I would die of a hospital [based] infection. Out of all the doctors, there was one doctor, an intern in pediatric medicine, who jumped to his feet and said God had a purpose for my life and the hospital then washed their hands off me.”
From southern India, the young intern and a colleague took a 37-hour trip (two buses and two trains) to a mission in Northern India.
“He carried me in a basket with another male intern and, other than for their specific medical training, they did not know how to care for a baby,” said Olson.
The women of the mission gave the infant with no arms and no legs a new name.
“They changed my name from Lekhia to Manyata which means accepted in the Marathi language. Lekhia meant writer in the Marathi language and I ended with a journalism degree not knowing the meaning,” said Olson.
With pen-in-mouth, Olson uses a pen tip to activate the keystrokes needed to complete job applications.
She believes prospective employers, while conducting background investigations, have learned of her disability: Total Amelia, which means no arms and no legs.
“So I believe my disability plays in prospective employers not hiring me,” said Olson as she prepped for a remote interview.
Eleven months into the job search process, she feels unwanted – even as just under 11 million jobs are unfilled in America.
She has a plea to prospective employers:
“I believe I have great interpersonal skill sets, a journalism degree and I love serving people.
I have the heart to serve people who are struggling, hurting, and who feel lost in this world. And I pray you will give me an opportunity.”