Friday, October 19, 2012

Strive to Do Something Meaningful....

What I have learned through my position is that everyone should strive to do something meaningful. I found a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King that captures my feelings exactly, “That old law about an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”  Dr. Martin Luther King was an incredible leader because of this way of thinking. He did not only think about his ability to succeed, rather felt that he could assist all to succeed by encouraging society to digest certain ideals that would help to benefit them. A great business, in theory, should hopefully have its values based on doing the right thing for people. I think that is why I consider myself so blessed to have landed at Meridian.

I have been given an opportunity to work for an organization that is dedicated to making peoples’ lives better. I think the organization is very successful because there is always a backbone of help and goodness to every initiative that it undertakes. A true “eye for an eye” type of mentality would leave all members involved unsatisfied. Working for a benevolent health care organization allows me to witness that there are different facets within the business world. Theoretically, I think becoming involved in an occupation that mirrors where you stand morally is extremely valuable to your self esteem. If one feels positively about where he/she is applying a great deal of effort, the result should be very positive. In our office, everyone hopes for the success of each other. This unified culture allows for us all to genuinely try to succeed in our own portion of the organization for the benefit of everyone else. I would love to hear from who else has taken a different career path following an injury.

~Noelle

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dreaming Is A Way of Planning...

I saw a quote that really hit it home for me. “Dreaming is a way of planning, dreaming and imagination leave the doors open to possibilities.” I feel that this is a fantastic way to look forward to your future. Gloria Steinem encourages people to open themselves up to the possibilities that may enter their minds. I think that it is good when I allow my mind to venture to far off places.  It is not good to grow into a complacent individual, which is why I hope I never stop dreaming. When one has dreams and ambitions, one always has something to work towards. I love to consider that every attainable plan begins with a dream. There is a level of comfort in knowing that our lives are what we dream of them to be. Maybe our dreams have a bit more depth to them than we originally thought they ever could; our dreams can teach a lesson.

Sometimes, knowing that my plans have significantly changed from what I originally thought has allowed me to see myself as resilient. I think every survivor is familiar with what I am referring to. I would love to read some commentary from fellow survivors. I read a comment from one of my first blogs which stated, “I hope that you get to… not only as an injured woman.” I appreciate the feedback, and I think it is important to state that this injury does not define me, yet it is a large part of who I am. It is also the reason why I am in the profession I am today. I feel that I have made attempts and am becoming more secure with who I am after my life-altering accident. A huge ambition and dream of mine is to secure my position as a definite part of my health care organization. I want our organization to stand apart from the others because of our “outside the box thinking”.

A phenomenal professor who I had during college always told me to “imagine and dream a perfect position” for myself following graduation; he felt this was the first step in attaining it. Maybe it was. Just like Steinem says, maybe it was my first step to planning my future.  I am more than qualified for the position I am in now due to life experience. Career positions due to life experience are often where individuals excel. My life experience stands out and my recovery from brain injury is extremely noteworthy. I had not yet built a career for myself when I was still in college. I would love to hear from others who pursued their college degree after sustaining a brain injury. I am very fortunate that I was able to attain my degree and employment at a time when employment isn’t entirely abundant. My dreaming continues as I reach out and knock on the doors of different nurse managers who may be able to utilize my position of support.

~Noelle

Monday, September 24, 2012

Living for Myself....

I found a quote written by Emerson that simply puts a very powerful life lesson into words.  Ralph Waldo Emerson frankly states, “It is easy to live for everyone else, everybody does. I call on you to live for yourself.” I know that this quote didn’t quite hit me until I truly pondered it for a while and evaluated every possibility as to what it was referring to. I know that I am always very critical of myself because I so deeply fear that others are going to judge me for my gait. The truth is: I can get around seamlessly. My gait is a bit awkward, but oh well. It is a gait nonetheless. I always promised myself that if I could get back to some form of independence, I would be forever satisfied. Of course, that light of satisfaction dims at times, but by reading Emerson’s quote the spotlight is drawn back again. Emerson calls on individuals to be satisfied and find comfort in doing what it takes for you to live. The quote is larger than that one line.

Following an injury there is a very fine line between caring deeply for others and being overly concerned with what they think. Having a deep rooted concern for one’s well being is far different than being overly concerned with what others think. Taking into account one’s well being and state of mind is what it is all about. I often reflect upon this quote when I am considering if I look awkward in my high heels. I think about Emerson’s quote and I take comfort in knowing that it really does not matter who has an opinion about how I walk in high heels. There is comfort in knowing that as long as I feel comfortable (and I do), then that is all that really matters.

I would love to hear a few comments from some survivors and their families who have had a feeling or experience where they tried to push the envelope. It is helpful to hear from other survivors who are engaged in similar activities to push themselves. So much comfort comes from truly being in touch with ourselves. I challenge all of you to take a minute and think about the challenges that you tackle and try to evaluate what drives you to do so. Emerson would hope that you prove to yourself that you can accomplish the task. Emerson would hope that you would attempt the same challenge if you were the only inhabitant on a far off deserted island. It is easy in Emerson’s view to follow the crowd and act as part of a pack. Emerson would greatly object to the “pack mentality” in which people continue to blindly follow those in front of them without a sense of where they are going.

~Noelle

Monday, August 6, 2012

Seven Years Post Injury...

As one gets further away from their injury, a deep rooted evaluation ensues. Progress to an outside individual is very different from what is perceived by the victim. I recently had my seven year anniversary of sustaining this injury. I spoke with several friends and family members regarding this momentous occasion. It was celebrated by many as to how far I have come and where I am today as opposed to laying comatose a “short” seven years ago.

In my opinion this has been one of the longest periods of seven years that anyone could ever go through. I went to dinner with a friend and as I went to grab the railing to go up the stairs, my arm tremor threw me of balance. I did not fall, yet I felt like all eyes were on me as I went up the stairs. I almost felt as though that experience happened last night to remind me that I will never be able to live my life with a full disregard for this injury. Many people express to me, “that with time you will barely be able to notice the injury”. I would love to hear some responses on who has heard and interpreted that statement. I have heard that statement a countless numbers of times and I just know what it feels like to live daily with this brain injury. Sometimes I feel as if I want to respond, “With all due respect I know better”. Obviously I never do, rather I reflect within myself and say nothing if it is not going to help me.

In my position I have to understand that people try to say what they think people want to hear. That is true in all of life I think. There are several different layers of emotions that must be peeled away as one proactively moves forward with this recovery. There is never an option to sit stagnantly I don’t think. Every day can be and has to be an opportunity. Even though I am seven years post accident and I still have some balance issues, I realize that my choice to wear high heels is likely not the most conducive to going up even a few stairs. That being said, I never want to lose the ability to challenge myself. Obviously any challenge that I take part in has to be with my safety in mind first. I can distinctly recall even a few weeks ago when I attempted to go up the stairs to a restaurant with my father. I ignorantly thought I could venture up the middle of the stairs with no railing. I almost lost my balance and thankfully my father was there to grab my arm. I recall being shocked at my loss of balance. Even though that was rather rare, I need to have that memory forefront so that I don’t get hurt. Daily activities can still be done, but safety always has to come first.

Seven years post injury, I am blessed and very thankful to be where I am yet I know that certain things are forever changed. I would love to hear from each of you as to what you have seen forever changed. Certain things have become more acute. Both my hearing and my sense of smell have become very much heightened. Once I regained the ability to verbalize my thoughts and emotions I felt very drawn to help those in need. Very often many people/patients need to be listened to. I can share many of my rehab experiences with those much earlier in the process. Hopefully I can be of some comfort as they battle back from their ailments.

~Noelle

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Success is Measured By How You Handle Disappointment

There are many things in life that provide us with “reasons to give up”. I believe that one’s threshold for the amount of provocation they can take while continually pushing it off and moving forward, says much for his/her character. I know that when a level of success is met; one often realizes that there had been several elements of success along the way that he or she hadn’t recognized at the time. Robert Kiyosaki’s quote, “The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” Anyone who knows me personally knows that I handle my disappointments and frustration with extreme honesty.

I guess it has sort of become my main characteristic to my personality. It is also how I am comfortable channeling my stress and anxiety. I feel that even though it may make me appear to be very anxiety ridden and nervous, I am far more at ease and relaxed in “grabbing the bull by the horns” and addressing my issues through direct communication. I would love to hear from several responders about what they have noticed in relation to their friend or family and how they handle their anxieties regarding a traumatic injury. Another way I channel my stress and anxieties is to go to the gym and sweat it out. It is important to remember that aside from your close family, you can’t always trust everyone.

Sometimes it is better to speak to a therapist whom has signed and is covered under the confidentiality clause. People are social animals and it is natural for people to discuss and share things. I found that out the hard way soon after my injury. I mentioned something to somebody who I thought I could trust; evidentially this was not the case and I chalk it all up to experience. I would love to hear from everybody who has had an experience with this type of social interaction with a person post TBI. As always I thank you very much in advance and I look forward to each and every unique response.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Defeat is Optional


Have you ever heard something that you felt spoke to you in an unbelievable way? I think because of how much I have gone through during this recovery; I feel that many inspirational quotes are applicable to my specific life journey. A quote by Roger Crawford did just that for me; “Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” How powerful and incredible is that for a person going through any type of trauma? Whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, I can guarantee you that life will challenge us in many ways. I think that keeping a perspective on the fact that certainly we have all been dealt a difficult hand (challenged) yet we have to refuse to be defeated. Defeat is definitely a temptation; yet we all have to refuse to allow our injury (situation) defeat us. Nobody ever told us that life was going to be easy, after a TBI it is very evident that “easy” is not an adjective that we will ever use mistakenly to describe our life circumstances.

I think it is imperative that we never give up the fight. I love to learn about each and every perspective regarding our injuries (or even life). I try to always take ownership over the fact that I (and we) have overcome a ton and that we are now emotionally and mentally capable of overcoming anything that comes our way. Survivors of brain injury are of gladiator strength. We have been challenged in far more ways than any individual should have to be. That being said, we have the responsibility and ability to inspire. The ability to inspire is a quality that should not ever be underestimated.

I cannot emphasize enough that while I have largely recovered; I am not and will not ever be the same again. I never want to give false hope; rather hope in general. The health care industry and family members alike both hope, pray, and wish for the best recovery possible.

~Noelle

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Want to be Somebody

“I want to be somebody”… is one phrase that sums up my thoughts regarding my purpose in life following my injury. I have found my need. As the Community Relations Ambassador to Meridian Neuroscience I was able to put the family of a survivor of a traumatic brain injury at ease as they start the beginning stages of a recovery from a devastating brain injury. I helped to ensure that they understood that recovery is not a black or white issue. Recovery is gradual and it takes an extremely long time. I think it is important to convey that recovery may not be 100%. The objective should be to achieve the best recovery possible.

I take comfort in knowing that I have a different level of credibility than the team of physicians and specialists that are caring for patients. While the prognosis of a DAI (diffuse axonal injury) is horrifying; the family took comfort in knowing that my thoughts and advice came from personal experience. I was able to put their minds at ease by ensuring that they understood that their relative was not in pain. I told them that the pain was felt by them and not by their relative.

I feel my story of surviving this injury is coming full circle. Earlier in my recovery, I longed for the day that I could put this injury far from my consciousness. I can recognize that it is a sign of self fulfillment and growth that I was able to look at my recovery as an asset. Life and recovery is a work in progress. It was a sign of evolution for me to relate to my recovery as a positive.

It is enlightening for me to observe that while I graduated college with honors, what really makes me unique is my recovery from a DAI injury. While I was happy that I graduated with honors, there are many other graduates who achieved the same thing. This injury has given me a niche. Certainly, not a niche I would have chosen, but none the less it is here and I am living it. The look on the faces of that family that I comforted last week was a look of gratitude. I know they were happy to have somebody cast a ray of light onto the devastation that their family was enduring.

To know that my experience had a positive impact on the family meant that I am where I need to be. Helping to put their minds at ease was beyond fulfilling for me. Giving can grant far more pleasure than receiving. I could not have been happier with my first patient contact. It was an incredible experience to know that my experience possessed such a great value to the family. I questioned myself, regarding what I said to the family and if I was helpful to them. Thankfully the email that I received from the family completely put my anxieties at rest.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Adapting to the Long Race

Adapting is a life skill that all people need to have a grasp of. Someone recovering from a life altering injury certainly needs to understand that life is an ongoing journey that is very complicated. Prior to my injury I thought I had a grasp of the “race”. Life does not always proceed as planned. A reassessment of one’s goals, strengths and value must always be evaluated. One particular quote that I found that best coincides with the changes in life following a traumatic brain injury is from Walter Elliot “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Depending on where one is in their journey of life depends on where they are in his or her adaptation. On one of my first days I visited with a family at the Regional Trauma Center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center who had a young family member who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. This visit proved to me that speaking to families about my experiences can give them hope. I embodied and represented a level of recovery that every family hopes for. My meeting with that family was as therapeutic for me as it was for them. I felt needed and valued as I comforted and shared some of my experiences and stories from my family’s experience in the ICU. I helped to ensure that the family understood that their comforting and soothing words were indeed beneficial. What I have come to understand is that being able to affect one’s psyche is more valuable than any object I could purchase. There is no price tag or dollar amount that a person could put on peace of mind. The race for me has switched terrains in that it is not all about the almighty dollar. The race for me has switched direction towards a more meaningful path. I now sleep better at night knowing that I am providing a service to families that was not available to me or my family. The most fascinating part of my visit with the family was that my mere presence is what provided the most value. I now feel that I possess a value that far exceeds anything I would have had prior to my accident.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My First Day of Work At Meridian Health Following My Brain Injury

My name is Noelle McNeil. On August second of 2005 while I was competing at a horse show I was rendered comatose after falling from a horse. I was indeed wearing a helmet and this was why I was able to survive. I did however sustain a severe brain injury which rendered me in a coma immediately upon impact with the ground. This trauma was indeed a great deal to swallow and embarked me on the most arduous journey of my life. This journey is not one which has a finite end. I will be recovering for the rest of my life. As an individual who has survived a brain trauma, one can’t help but wonder who is going to be willing to allow you to try and apply what you have learned both in school and most importantly through life experience.

My thoughts immediately went to somewhere other than the city. After a neurological injury my fatigue level would not allow for me to commute 3 hours a day to work in Manhattan. I was fortunate to regain my ability to drive. Even I had to look outside the box to something other than the New York City hub. My fears were that having been injured, maybe my business degree would become non applicable. Indeed maybe it made me non applicable for some places, but perhaps it makes us very applicable to work in others. A Health Care Organization who specializes in making the lives better of those who have been sick, ill or injured ended up being very applicable for me.

Where to Work?

My first day of work a filming crew came to my house to film me getting ready for work and traveling to one of Meridian’s other hospitals at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank NJ. I felt a need and a desire unlike that which I had ever felt post accident. I believe that a sense of helplessness seems to take over for a patient readjusting to life. This feeling is thankfully very short lived as one begins to reassess what opportunities and tools they have available to them. Perhaps life may be different, but perhaps it can be that much more fulfilling.
 
Parents?

I know my parents were indeed very nervous for me following this injury. When they learned of my position with Meridian they were thrilled. Who who could have thought? Recoveries are not ever easy to come by; and those who have been fortunate enough to attain one need to be aware of their fortune in which to do so. I truly believe that developing into a life of purpose is what each and every one of us should strive for. I have had to watch my parents both struggle and feel triumphant as they have watched my journey from hospitalization, to that of rehab, through college and now finally back into the working world. I am not yet a parent, but after watching the bravery with which that my parents have battled through this injury along side of me every step of the way, it instills a deep sense of thankfulness to them. I am wondering who has had some of the same experiences? Who has felt their relationships grow in ways they had never thought possible? I feel that this relationship is mystical within itself. I ask for whom has seen themselves drawn to the philosophical way of relating to things following an injury?

Well, thank you so much for reading my first blog entry as I embark on this incredible journey. Subscribe to my blog so you can follow my frequent updates on how I'm doing and feel free to comment!

Thanks,
Noelle