February 8, 2020


by: marketing


Tags: client story, disability employment


Categories: Newsletter Articles

Birol’s Story

Birol’s incredible story begins about 20 years ago when the Turkish native arrived in Puerto Rico to work for a shipping company. For over two years Birol worked for the company without ever receiving the payments he was promised. During this time, Birol was informed of a job at a pet store. He took a cab to the store, only to see that it had permanently closed. The taxi driver refused to drive Birol back to San Juan, which was hours away by car, because Birol could not pay the inflated $100 taxi fare.

Without any other options, Birol began to walk back to San Juan, which was days away by foot.  Along the way, Birol found a little bit of luck and $5 on the ground. He used the $5 to eat and rest at a nearby fast-food chain.  Though his Spanish was very broken, Birol tried to communicate with the fast-food employees. Luckily, a man who spoke Turkish happened to be in line at the restaurant. Birol told his story to the man and, moved, the man offered to pay for Birol to stay in a hotel overnight and drive him back to San Juan in the morning. The man kept his word and even let Birol stay at his home once they returned to San Juan. He also gave Birol a job holding a sign at a street corner. Thanks to the help and support of the gentleman, after some time, Birol found a job installing commercial signs on office buildings where he worked for two years, learned Spanish, and met his first wife.

Birol then decided to apply for a green card. To do so, he would have to go back to Turkey. While Birol was away in Turkey, his wife stayed in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, when he returned to Puerto Rico, his marriage ended. Now back in Puerto Rico, he was offered a part-time position at a pet store and continually climbed the latter until becoming the Aquarium Director at the San Juan Museum and Aquarium. Sadly, a year later the aquarium closed and Birol was once again looking for a job.  He soon found himself working as an assistant cargo driver loading trucks. While working at this position, Birol fell on the job. When he woke from the fall, he found himself in the hospital, paralyzed from the chest down.

During his treatment, a doctor offered a nerve block to relieve the pain Birol felt. However, Birol felt the pain from the injection and days later experienced dreadful side effects including headaches, losing his sight, buzzing in his ears that was so loud that he could no longer hear, and uncontrollable shaking. The attending doctor placed Birol upside down, hanging him by his feet with his head towards the floor, and then refused to attend to him any further. A second doctor was sent and, once he saw the damage that had been caused to Birol during treatment, he refused to attend to Birol in fear of a lawsuit.

An acquaintance, Dr. Deverim Oskay, would visit Birol during the almost three months he was left hanging. Dr. Oskay reached out to a Colombian student doctor for help and luckily, he took on the case. This doctor was able to restore Birol’s hearing through a new treatment where blood from Birol’s knuckles was injected into the fractured vertebra in his spine. The doctor also operated on Birol with a donated disk and within a month Birol’s sight and feeling in his torso returned.  Birol eventually began walking again little by little and was granted immunity due to his extreme circumstances. He became a U.S. Citizen and qualified for 100% disability.

During his time in the hospital, Birol met his wife, Ivelisse.  She helped him throughout his recovery and encouraged him to go back to school to follow his love of mathematics. Through guidance from Vocational Rehabilitation, Birol attended the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico to study computer science. Things weren’t easy though. Birol faced discrimination from his professors due to his disability. In his determination, he persevered, found a professor willing to tutor him in English and Spanish, and graduated at the top of his class with honors and a Bachelor’s of Science in computer engineering.

In October of 2016, due to the lack of opportunities in Puerto Rico, Birol and his wife moved to Florida. At his local Vocational Rehabilitation office, Birol met his counselor Thomas, who became a great asset to him. Birol started taking English classes and OSHA certifications to become a more attractive candidate. After choosing to work with an employment services company, Birol was contacted about once a month by an employment specialist who found him part-time jobs at places such as Publix and Burger King. Birol expressed that he felt he could do a more technical job due to his Bachelor’s degree.

Unhappy with the performance of his employment specialist, Birol then found an employment company in California that referred him to employU in Florida. Birol contacted employU Area Manager Frank Sales, who then asked Birol to let Thomas know that he would like to switch companies. Frank and Birol formed a friendship through finding a job suitable for Birol and his educational background. They would meet every week to discuss opportunities, follow up on applications, and attend job fairs together. During this time, Birol was studying for his Masters in Nanotechnology at UCF. After submitting several applications at the UCF Engineering Job Fair, Birol interviewed with the U.S. Air Force and was offered a position as an engineer the next day. He then began the long verification process for employment. In the meantime, Birol took a volunteer position with the Altamonte Springs Police Department (Altamonte Mall Cops). Three months later, he accepted a full-time permanent position with the U.S. Airforce that offered a great salary, benefits, and relocation. In March 2020, Birol and his wife relocated to Georgia to begin his career. Birol (tearfully) would like to thank “Frank at employU, Thomas at Vocational Rehabilitation, The Colombian student doctor who took his case, Dr. Deverim Oskay, and most importantly his wife Ivelisse who helped him become an engineer and supported him throughout.”

Photo of Birol volunteering in the Altamonte Springs Police Department