1st Lt. Steven Olsen: Celebrating a second chance at life

WTU Force Structure 1st. Lt. Steven Olsen prepares for a trial cycle run at Fort Sam Houston’s Warrior Transition Battalion. (Photo courtesy Steven Olsen)

By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

February is the month we celebrate love, friendship and admiration, but for Sgt. 1st Class Steven Olsen the month is a constant reminder of how fortunate he is to be alive. Olsen was born on Valentine’s Day, but he considers February 4, 2014 his second birthday.

“Every time I feel my heart beating fast, it reminds me of a not-so-distant trial my family and I faced and overcame,” Olsen said.

That trial began in October 2013 as Olsen prepared for a morning workout during a deployment. While standing in formation, he says his heart began beating faster than normal.

“It went on for 20 minutes. I felt like I was going to collapse, but I was able to get to the Troop Medical Center. My heart rate returned to normal, but a week later I saw a heart specialist,” she added. “I ended up having three total episodes before I was medically evacuated from theater back to the states. I departed theater on Thanksgiving Day 2013.”

Olsen was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart rhythm arising from improper electrical activity.

“I was always active and I was devastated that I may never be able to run again. When I called my wife with the news, it was a very scary time for us, but as God always does, He helped us through this difficult time. Prayer really makes all the difference.”

Doctors performed a catheter ablation to treat his heart condition. The procedure destroyed areas of his heart that caused the heart irregularity. Several months later, he was medically cleared and began to heal at the Fort Sam Houston’s Warrior Transition Battalion.

Encouraged to try a variety of activities including kayaking, cycling, wheelchair basketball and archery, Olsen says being involved with adaptive reconditioning sports was life-changing.

“I was so excited to finally get back to an active lifestyle. Gone were the days of sitting on the couch as I began to fill my time with healthy activities,” Olsen said. “The WTB was an unfamiliar place, but I was quickly welcomed to my temporary home. An important aspect of the program is the role of the military adaptive coordinators. They are essential in helping Soldiers in transition. They pour their heart and soul into each Soldier. The program gave me a new sense of purpose during my recovery.”

These days the Iowa native finds his purpose in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and veterans’ homeless shelters.

“What encourages me the most was watching how the military adaptive coordinators would encourage and inspire the severely disabled veterans,” he said. “Seeing them help those Soldiers to believe in themselves and defy the odds is truly inspiring.”

Equally inspiring is Olsen’s commitment to living each day to the fullest.

Olsen was promoted to 1st Lt. shortly before his retirement on April 10, 2017.