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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Importance of Family...

Throughout this recovery; I have realized the true importance of family. This injury makes me feel as though the population of brain injury survivors is my family. This injury has alienated me from many; it is during times of loneliness that I am so grateful to my parents and my brother. Unfortunately family life often suffers as a result of a life altering injury. Brain injuries in particular are very difficult. Depending upon the location of the injury, an individual’s personality may change. My family has immersed themselves in much of the research that is available. This injury is a part of me that I will live with for the rest of my life. Likewise, my family will hopefully always understand as I progress forward in life.  I am in contact with many survivors; not always is this guaranteed. There are heart wrenching stories of siblings, spouses and children who flee from the injured party. I recently have connected   with a young woman who has found love and acceptance from her sister. I will attend a traumatic brain injury support group that she and her sister are attending. I will make sure to acknowledge her sister and the fantastic role that she is playing in relation to her sister. Many of the survivors that I have become close with all mention his/her family and how the change in life circumstance has affected them. This upcoming weekend is my Goddaughter and nephew’s joint birthday party. There are going to be ponies at the party for the kids to be lead around on. I focused upon this during my last therapy session. Much of this injury I have been able to proceed through life in spite of. I will make it my business to be nothing but supportive of my brother and the beautiful party that he is putting together for his children. My parents are aware of the potential anxiety that I will experience; they also know of my will and have no doubt that I will be able to step outside of my emotions for the two hours that the pony rides will be going on. I would love to hear who else has a bit of post traumatic stress in relation to his/her injury. I realize that the troops coming home from war have the possibility of extreme post traumatic stress. My therapist and I discussed the possible triggers that may come up at this joyous event for my brother, sister in law and their children. I am curious as to who else sees a therapist to assist them as they navigate through life, this injury and family dynamics. The children would never understand any emotional issues that I may be feeling. I have to try and put them on the back burner as I will be there to celebrate the birthdays of the children. This weekend will be an overwhelmingly joyous occasion. I do not want to take away from the enjoyment of the children in any way. My brother and sister in law have been amazing to me and I need to be supportive towards them and their children. I am hopeful and confident that I will be able to manage my emotions as I have towards every other difficult event that I have had to face post accident. Hopefully my therapist has given me useful methods to keep my anxiety under control. I have to heed the advice of him and make sure to always keep the focus on maintaining an even keel. The children are too young to understand all that is encompassed with what goes on emotionally. One day perhaps fifteen years down the line I will explain it to them. Right now all they will understand is a party and cake. Perhaps I will discuss the posttraumatic stress tendencies when I go to my support groups for this injury. I have never yet been to a support group for this injury. Hopefully I will feel as though we are all speaking the same language. I would love to hear from anyone who has gone to a support group for their injury. Thank you very much for reading.

~Noelle

Monday, October 6, 2014

“Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth.”

I get to encourage patients and fellow survivors to try and not focus on the often terrifying changes that they are encountering in recovery. A quotation from Horace states, “Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth.” This quote can assist survivors to not become overwhelmed and disheartened towards therapy.  I have long finished my therapies, yet I continue and will always continue to work out and try to strengthen my right arm. Indeed it scares me what the future has in store for me. I cannot and do not allow this to cause me to deviate from the activities that I know are best for me. Depending on your state of mind, every day can be a gift. Encouraging survivors to do so with the credibility of having survived a brain injury myself, is what allows me to be accepted by survivors. There is such a vast spectrum of recovery levels. No two survivors are exactly the same.

Over the years I have noticed that I do have a quite a portion of anxiety towards the unknown. Recently I was reading a social media post that many family’s of survivors post on; the discussion was in regards to a nineteen year old child who just got cleared to walk with a walker from his wheelchair. The child’s mother was discussing her frustration in her son’s fear in regards to attempting to walk. She told her son that the hospital wouldn’t have cleared him to walk with the walker if he couldn’t do it safely or without incident. She shared her sons fear and anxiety towards regaining what she felt would be a very gratifying mode of mobility. Many survivors posted back to the mother that fear of walking after being wheelchair bound for so long was vastly typical.  I know that while I was experiencing vertigo, I was slightly apprehensive towards walking unaided. I meet many individuals and family members of people who had strokes; very often there is a disconnect between the desires of the individual and of the family. It is difficult to listen to a family/spouse discuss where they are hoping for the family member to be by a certain point in time. Many friends who are who are psychologists  have advised me that only for certain individuals  using “benchmarks” as goals have proven effective, whenever an aspiration is made it may best be made with a consult from the caring physician or physiatrist. They can help family members to understand the realistic time frame of the progression of the patient. The woman whose son has been cleared to walk by the physician is frustrated because she does not understand why her son would not take full advantage of the freedom to walk. As a survivor, there are many emotions that we go through that are difficult for others to understand. It feels almost as if we are part of our own tribe who understand each other.