Friday, November 21, 2014

Preparing to Give Thanks

The holidays are just around the corner. After a life altering injury there is an extremely concrete reason to give thanks for the gifts in your life. Family, love and joy are what surround the holidays. Specifically the purpose of Thanksgiving is incredibly poignant following a life altering injury or illness. Every survivor needs to realize how fortunate they are to be able to have the warmth and love of family. The gears of life allow for celebration. In order to truly feel and experience the holiday season one has to satiate upon the true beauty and meaning of the day. Far beyond any meal or any presents that are exchanged are the deep rooted meanings of each holiday. The purpose of Thanksgiving is a theme that I strive to live every day. There are many people who are unable (for one reason or another) to celebrate and experience the joy that is to be had.

I am thankful for the expertise of the people who I work alongside. Both professionals and patients are specialists in their own right. Hopefully I can convey to each and every resident/patient or family that I visit with that I respect and admire each and every individual. There is a spectrum that people who have had brain injuries fall into. The level of comprehension varies based on the acuity and the level of recovery from the brain injury. There is always the aspect of time that comes into play when recovering from any type of an injury. A brain injury involves the entire person. The physical aspects are often slight in comparison to the unseen injuries that are left behind. The gift that I can give daily is the gift of understanding. As a former patient myself, I vow to never forget what it is to be ignorant of the steps ahead. I think that every opportunity where a piece of information can be shared from one survivor to another is beautiful. Part of what I try and convey is the true importance of the season that is just ahead. It is important to continue living the meaning of thanksgiving far after the holiday season is behind us.


~Noelle

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finding Joy In People

A large part of managing any change in life circumstance involves making an effort to find joy within people. You can count on people treating you much more warmly when your heart is in the right place. Hospitalizations are very difficult on people and surrounding families. The holiday season is coming; certainly nobody wants to be in the hospital during this upcoming time of celebration. As a support to the therapists, doctors, nurses and staff there will always be the effort to get patients home to their families. Relating to people who are going through trauma is definitely a specialty of mine. Hopefully I can increase the state of mind of the patients so they can focus more intently on their therapy regime that has been laid out for them.
There is a definite carry over from this positive mantra in the facilities onto general life. I stay in contact via email with many former patients. They share how their life is going and what is coming up on their agenda. Everyone has different strengths. It is great to compare stories and find those experiences that are alike and also those that differ. I am convinced that having a former patient who will compare notes with current patients can only assist in the recovery of these individuals. There is a common goal of many of the patients and residents to get home with his/her family before the start of the festivities. Regardless of whether or not they are able to get home before the holidays, each facility makes sure to create a warm and welcoming environment for each and every resident. The nursing homes have already begun to decorate to welcome the upcoming holidays.

Each resident makes the facility his/her own by adding decorations and by creating a true home feeling. There are several residents who I have encouraged to go above and beyond to lend a friendly hand or a warm smile to others. The result is a unanimous effort by both residents and staff to create a warm and welcoming environment. I distinctly recall coloring many trees with their warm autumn colors. The combining of efforts can create a beautiful environment where individuals can feel as close to “home” as possible. Many of the facilities offer long-term care where it is exceptionally important to encourage the employees to treat the residents as family. I would love hearing any feedback that you may have in regards to any holidays that you may have spent in the hospital. Thank you so much for reading as always.

~Noelle

Friday, November 7, 2014

Keeping Prospective....

There are many situations where an individual’s strength is tested after a devastating injury. I found a quote that I feel is quite applicable to interpersonal relationships post a brain injury, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Philosophically I believe this quote is right on the money. Regardless of how people treat you, the response is entirely in each one of our control. I believe that a person can make comments but not ensure the desired insult without the cooperation of the pupil who is the target. Theoretically an individual can make a vow within them to refrain from allowing him/her self to be distracted from the daily goals set forth. I adore this quote because it truly makes you think. A situation which has made an individual feel inferior always involves the willing consent of the person of target. As an individual you are actually in a tremendous amount of control as to what permeates your emotions.

  I try and imagine how things would be different if I never reacted quickly to inflammatory comments made in my direction. I know many parents who themselves get very reactive and angry if they feel as though his/her child has been targeted. It is difficult enough to control yourself, I really couldn’t imagine if someone who was completely helpless was targeted. Sometimes I feel that inflammatory comments are not made with malicious intent. As with everything, certainly there are times when they are definitely meant to purposefully be mean. I try and take a comment with a grain of salt and attempt to evaluate in what way the comment was made. I try and evaluate if the comment could have possibly been made in an innocuous manner. I have had to make a contrived effort to stop and consider the varying intentions of a comment which I originally felt as though had malicious intent. I have to credit my therapists for helping me to evaluate several possible intentions before having a kneejerk reaction. Post brain injury, it is easy to react quickly and without much thought. Frontal executive function is damaged and therefore as are the decision making and judgment making areas of the brain. I would invite any comments that you may have and I thank you for reading.

~Noelle

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween

This Halloween it has become very important to celebrate the ability to step out of the disguise. Children enjoy getting in disguise and enjoying asking for treats from neighbors. That tradition is wonderful and very accepted and lighthearted for children. Halloween has a slightly different connotation for an individual who is still coming to terms with a sustained disability as a result of an accident. In the support group that I will attend next week to learn about the lives and times of people who have sustained brain trauma, it will be interesting to see if this topic is approached. I have been fortunate in many ways in regard to this recovery; I am very truthful when I am conversing with other survivors how this was both a blessing and a curse. I allowed myself to step away from reality for many years.

At this point I finally am able to step out of disguise and be who I really am. Ideally, individuals (specifically children) would be able to separate reality from a silly celebratory day where there are parades and candy is given out to many smiling faces. Every year I am getting closer to the ability to step away from my own internal battles and step into the norm of society. I spoke for medical students and was very frank regarding the true implications of having a very much “hidden injury”. Even though my gait is off and such would be noticed to the lay eye, the unseen portion of this injury is by far the most difficult to deal with. Every aspect of a person is on the table in a recovery. I hope and pray that every person who sustains a disability knows that Halloween is a day about children getting candy and wearing costumes, nothing more and nothing less.

~Noelle

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Simple Things...

A smile is a simple way to help to make somebody’s day. Hospitals certainly are somewhere people need to be uplifted and helped to understand that the entirety of the employees are there to ensure his/her health and likewise the health of the community. It is great to see how a culture that values the friendly body language can help to stay motivated. While a patient is trying to regain his/her independence; a friendly and upbeat atmosphere is essential. It is also rather simple to enact. The level of expertise of a hospital is one thing; but a healthcare system that values a lifestyle that tries to keep patients out of the hospital is what has made me fall in love with where I work.

 It is not very often that there is a unified cause where the entirety of the workforce has the same goal in mind. Thankfully there are reports for the “best places to work” where the company that I am employed is consistently recognized. As a former patient, I always remember how much positive personal interaction affected my motivation. I take special notice towards the positivity that I witness at the nursing facilities that we run. Patients/residents who are afflicted with dementia or early Alzheimer’s often pass through a stage of hostility. It takes a special employee to be able to separate and not take the possible personal insults to heart.

 I believe that the recreation coordinators at our nursing facilities should be commended for the job that they do. Every facility that we have is different and each facility has a specialty. The full continuum of care is what keeps our healthcare system distinct as different from those in the rest of my state. Regardless of which hospital or rehab/nursing home there always has to be similar desire to shed positivity and light amongst those who are in the facilities. Employees are encouraged to treat residents as they would like a family member of theirs treated. It should be a top priority for every facility in relation to health and well being to shed positivity and light. I would love to hear from those who have shared a unique and positive experience. I know that through meditation and yoga individuals are greatly to control his/her state of mind and therefore how they are perceived.  I am intrigued as to how certain people are able to able to control so much of how his/her body reacts to certain stressors.

~Noelle

Friday, October 17, 2014

Getting Support.....


As humans we need to feel as a part of something. What was surprising was the amount of comfort that I immediately felt in my attendance of the Brain Injury Support Group. What was amazing was that in attendance was a family who I had visited during the hospitalization of their sister. Sometimes we all lose sight of the purpose that we fulfill as a part of our positions. I was amazed at the incredible unification of every person in attendance. I am sure that I will attend next month as well. Support is an underutilized resource. I remain in contact with the vast majority of the patients that I visit during his/her hospital stays. It was interesting to be exposed to several survivors who are at various different stages of life following his/her accidents. Some were traumatic accidents while others were brain tumor removals and strokes. Regardless of the nature of the injury, we all could relate to each other.

 The day to day progression through life while living as a brain injury survivor is no easy feat. I have made a pact to myself and every brain injury survivor that I come in contact with; to be one hundred percent truthful in regards to both the difficult times and the uplifting and encouraging times. There certainly is a choice that has to be made in order to focus upon the gifts that a survivor has. At the group there was a constant theme in regards to the support and love of family. Throughout the entire group there was never a feeling of anger or bitterness. In the group nobody felt the desire to keep the disguise on. We were all one; we have all survived and are desperately trying to find our place in society. There is a community sense in regards to brain injury survivors. The seminar that I attended earlier in the year was referenced and I felt in touch that I had attended and absorbed much information from the conference. There was truly something very comforting about being able to speak with credibility. My credibility comes from personal experience as well as working alongside survivors.

The fact that there was a former patient whom I had visited during her hospital stay in attendance was an added bonus. It is incredibly uplifting to witness the transformation that an individual goes through. I was intrigued by the benevolent nature of the group. I believe there is something to learn from every person that you meet. An individual, who has gone through many of the same experiences as you, has an even deeper understanding. I was unaware of the incredible benefit that a community would provide to a survivor. I am curious as to who has utilized a support group of any kind. I thank you very much for reading and encourage you to respond.

~Noelle

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Strive for Excellence


In the aftermath of a brain injury; the definition of excellence may change. Every goal that is achieved no matter how small is in a word incredible. I realize that this injury is here for life. I have made it my prerogative to make an excellent effort with the goals that have been set out for me. Brian Tracey reminds us, “Set excellent performance as your standard and strive to achieve it every day”. Post brain injury, there are definite issues that must be negotiated. In relation to people, there is always room for improvement. Practice does make perfect. I am not sure if there ever is a “perfect”, but I will continue to strive to be the most motivated individual that the patients come in contact with. I want the patients to know the culture of the hospital that they have chosen for care. I always try to convey that with a brain injury, much of how much you improve has to do with the personal drive of the individual. Many individuals are far too injured to comprehend his/her level of recovery. Typically I am of most use to those that are striving to regain their mobility. I often speak to families of individuals who are still in a coma. Family members typically see a value in my supportive services. In my case, I have set excellence as my standard in dealing with families.

I go to nursing homes as well as hospitals and rehabilitation centers. The families are thrilled that their loved ones can look forward to my visits. To these families I assist in making a difference. These families often write letters in regard to how his/her loved one benefits from me directly. There is a continuous level of care; sometimes I even witness a patient go from a hospital, to an acute rehab and then to a sub acute rehab. I think that any level of desire that can be awakened in a patient is instrumental to the drive that is necessary to improve and begin to tackle the extensive recovery process. I have made special connections with certain residents in the nursing homes. Every week that I visit them they tell me how the week was and who visited. In my line of work this level of hope and inspiration is excellent. Whenever I hear a resident tell me how much they appreciate my visits, I am further motivated to continue to do an excellent job at encouraging the residents. Appreciation is truly a wonderful gift to give someone. That is certainly something that I have learned by daily working with people who are going through difficult circumstances. I am hopeful that I can share some of what I used to propel forward in my recovery.

The therapists tell me how an individual is progressing and where they feel that they could use a bit of encouragement. The fact that professionals are using me as an additional resource to encourage their patients is truly excellent. Hopefully I can continue to strive toward further excellence every day. This position allows me to feel specialized and valued in the workplace. I am curious as to who has found employment after a brain injury. What are some of the challenges? Have you felt encouraged to do excellent? I thank you very much for reading.

~Noelle