It wasn’t until he reached his mid-20s that Jacob Galos realized what he wanted to do with his life. He planned to become a firefighter, he said, a career that was going to require that he first become certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT).
Coincidentally, Jacob would soon have EMTs to thank for helping ensure these career goals remained within reach. First responders, after all, were first on the scene after Jacob was shot in the head, a near-fatal injury that would require two surgeries and months of rehabilitation.
“If it wasn’t for the EMTs and paramedics, I may not have been able to live,” he said. “The doctors and surgeons … all of them made a difference in where I am today.”
Today, Jacob is a graduate of UEI College’s Medical Assistant program. He earned his diploma while taking classes at the Gardena campus, where he secured perfect attendance and a 4.0 GPA.
And, more importantly, he says he still has his eye on becoming an EMT, then training to become a firefighter.
“UEI made me confident in my training,” Jacob said. “I have what I need to start building my career in the medical field thanks to UEI. Hard work pays off!”
From Injury to Wake-Up Call
Due to what he calls immaturity and foolishness, Jacob dropped out of high school at the age of 17. He was living on his own at the time, occasionally staying in hotels and motels before finding more consistent shelter at a relative’s house.
He worked a variety of jobs during his late teens and early 20s. When he became a father in 2017, he started to seriously consider career and educational paths when, with one shot, all his hopes seemed to come crashing down.
“When it first happened, I was in the hospital for eight days. I was actually one of the fastest patients to recover from an injury like this,” he said. “But, I couldn’t move. I woke up and had to learn how to move again.”
Surgeons were forced to remove half of Jacob’s skull due to brain swelling, an issue he dealt with for close to a year and a half. He could talk and communicate, but it would take months of rehab for him to regain the strength and function he needed to walk normally.
“They wanted me on bed rest because they needed my brain to keep the swelling down,” he said. “Any type of stress at the time, and there would be an overflow of blood on that side of my skull. So, during that year, I was pretty much at home all the time.”
And, he worried about his future. Would he be able to go back to work? Could he go to school, earn his high school diploma and perhaps learn a trade following such a serious head injury?
Following his second surgery, during which a synthetic plate was placed in his head, he asked the surgeons if his body and brain could take the pressure of going back to school. They said yes.
Pursuing a Medical Career
Jacob said he wanted to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter but knew the journey would have to start with medical training. He was actually excited for this because of his positive experiences as a patient.
“I think the fact I was in the hospital and had all the nurses taking care of me, it made me want to help them and help other people that were there,” he said. “It made me actually want to be a part of that …of just helping other people.”
But, as he considered possible schools, he kept running into the same hurdle: he didn’t have a high school diploma. That’s where UEI College differed from others.
“Other schools don’t offer the support to do the high school program as much,” Jacob said. “At UEI, that helped me a lot as I worked toward my high school diploma.”
At the same time, he took classes within the medical assistant program, for which he credits his instructors, Mark Maloney and Flor Valentin, for his ultimate success.
“While doing the workbook, there were some segments where I couldn’t actually find the answers. And, Mr. Maloney would go through it and read it with me,” Jacob said. “Same thing with Ms. Valentin. She was always there to help me study for the tests and make sure I passed.”
“Jacob was very attentive, and as an experienced instructor, you know the deer-in-the-headlights look versus, ‘I’m paying attention to EVERY word you are saying,’” Mark said. “As the assignments were being turned in, I was pleased with how well he was doing. I made mention to him that he was doing remarkably well and to keep up the good work. He immediately told me that he has never done well with school. He was super excited.”
“Jacob continued his excellent work, and off to extern he went,” Mark added. “Not only did he complete his 250 hours, but he was also selected for hire. I did tell him as I tell all of my students: NEVER SETTLE. No matter what you do, you make YOU happen, and that is certainly true for Jacob. This just goes to show you and everyone reading this that if you put your mind to it, you can and will succeed.”
“Jacob was a pleasure to have as a student. His experience has become a story of inspiration for others on campus, and he has motivated other to pursue their dreams,” Flor said.
Jacob plans to continue his educational path starting this summer. He’s already been accepted to attend Long Beach City College, but he’s not yet sure on which program he’ll focus: nursing, radiology, or EMT.
Either way, he’s ready to keep pushing toward a career focused in the medical field. And, he feels his personal experiences will benefit him throughout.
“It’s going to be meaningful,” he said. “I’ll be thankful knowing that in some scenarios, I can possibly relate to the patient. To have been there and know how it feels, it would be the best experience.”
“We are so proud of Jacob” said Dr. Tim Gramling, Executive Director at UEI Gardena. “We advocate strongly for students by working tirelessly to help them reach their goals. Jacob demonstrates that the best advocate for any person is that person themselves. We wish him the best as he moves forward with his new career!”