Man with cerebral palsy challenges stereotypes, celebrates 50 years at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski

‘Anybody that’s disabled needs a chance to prove themselves’

"He is an inspiration and a critical part of the hospital's operations," Sean Pressman, CEO of Lewisgale Hospital Pulaski said.

PULASKI, Va. – Sammy Mabe is the voice behind LewisGale Hospital Pulaski.

He’s a switchboard operator. He answers phones and alerts doctors to patient emergencies. Last week, he celebrated 50 years on the job.

“When I first started I said I was gonna do it a couple years and then do something else. And then the years just flew by,” said Mabe. “I enjoyed it so I just stayed.”

Hospital CEO Sean Pressman said Mabe is an inspiration and a critical part of the hospital’s operations.

“He is keeping things going on a day-to-day basis. He is saving lives in his role,” said Pressman.

Before Mabe was hired at the hospital, he had trouble getting a job. He has cerebral palsy.

“It affects my balance. As long as I’m up on my crutches I do pretty good,” said Mabe. “I drive with an automatic transmission. I learned to swim when I was 32. So I’ve done pretty much anything I wanted to with my disability.”

After college, Mabe started his job search but kept hitting roadblocks.

“If they saw me coming on crutches, they would come out and say, ‘We don’t have anything for you to do,” said Mabe.

Until one day, Mabe didn’t have a car and hitchhiked a ride with a man driving a white Cadillac. He told the driver about his troubles finding work.

“He handed me this legal pad. He said ‘Write down where you’ve been.’ So I wrote it all down,” said Mabe. “He said, ‘Don’t leave your house tomorrow. You’re going to get a job.’”

Turns out, the driver was the late Del. Archie Campbell, Mabe’s representative.

“He made a few calls that night about, you know, the ADA,” said Mabe. “And I got nine jobs the next morning.”

Lucky for Mabe, the hospital saw his worth without needing a call from the delegate. Now, he’s a local celebrity and helps others with disabilities any way he can.

“That’s what I want to do. I want to help other handicapped people if I can,” said Mabe.

At 73 years young, Mabe doesn’t have plans to retire any time soon. And has this message:

“Anybody that’s disabled needs a chance to prove themselves,” said Mabe. “They can do it. And I proved that.”

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!