In extreme pain, Angela Philpot was bedridden for two years. For a long time, the reason why was a mystery.
The student had been in a car accident, but despite being thrown against the vehicle’s center console, sustaining nerve damage to her left chest wall, no bones were broken. Nothing showed up on diagnostic imaging. Doctors and medical specialists kept working to determine the extent of her injuries.
Finally, Philpot was diagnosed as having intercostal neuralgia and had to withdraw from Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Ga., to recuperate. It gave her time to think about her career path.
“Although my bones weren’t broken, I was in a lot of pain, and some people just thought I was faking this. So, I wanted to be that person who doesn’t discredit someone’s pain and show them the level of empathy that they deserve,” she explains.
“I was headed for bioscience technology, for research. But then, once I was in the accident, I saw the level of patient care that I received and the level I didn’t receive depending on which area, which specialists I had to go to.”
Her path became clear. “It was within this traumatizing experience that I realized how vital a career in health care truly is,” she says.
“The radiology staff was so kind and empathetic to me during this time. I will never forget their impact on my life. I knew from that moment on that I would need to figure out how to get the education I needed to have the skill set to pursue radiologic technology.”
Back where she started
Her lengthy recuperation didn’t discourage Philpot one bit; she knew she belonged in health care. After researching radiologic technology programs, she ended up returning to Gwinnett Tech.
“I made sure, every day, to tell myself that no matter what, I was going to get back. No matter how long it took, I was going to get better,” she remembers. Eventually, the pain subsided. “It’s never fully gone away, but I still I just keep going. I just keep pushing through.”
At school, Philpot had been involved in the Students’ Toastmasters International club, where she’d served as vice president of education. That visibility led instructors to point her toward SkillsUSA.
“Once I found my way to SkillsUSA, it just — it felt like a family,” she says. “I wasn’t in it alone, and it wasn’t just about communicating better, it was about, ‘Can I be the best that I can possibly be in my field?’
“Really, the whole dynamic of SkillsUSA,” she adds, “it’s just a very positive, empowering group, and I’m very thankful to be a part of it.”
That includes competitions. “Because SkillsUSA challenges you, I think, far more, to compete not only with yourself, but at a state level, at a national level, to see how far you can go to be … the best that you can be. I don’t think there’s anything more empowering than that.”
In 2018, Philpot earned a national silver medal in Health Occupations Professional Portfolio. She’s also competed in Job Interview. Besides SkillsUSA, she is a member of the National Technical Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and Lambda Nu Honor Society. She graduated this spring from Gwinnett Tech.
Today, Philpot’s job prospects look as good as her perspective on life.
“Anything worth the end result is a lot of work,” she says. “My intercostal neuropathy will always be with me, but I continue to push through. The pain isn’t constant like it used to be, but it comes back in unexpected waves. Nevertheless, I am still fully capable of physically conquering each day with a smile and continuously working hard toward all of my future endeavors.”
A firm believer in paying it forward, Philpot adds, “I look forward to having the skill set necessary to help my future patients get diagnosed accurately.”