Committed? NO! Congratulated!

by Kathy Lane

Steve S. is the average, good-tempered, 45 year old male with one exception. He sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in 1985, the result of a physical assault.

Amazingly, he managed to survive the initial injury. After his hospitalization and initial rehabilitation, after the wounds healed and required therapies were completed, Steve was discharged to home, ready to re-enter the world. He was aware of his memory problems as a result of the injury, but like many, thought things would improve in time.

Unfortunately, they did not. As is common with his type of injury, Steve suffers severe memory deficits. Obviously, as time passed and his situation didn't improve, confusion, anxiety, and frustration snowballed into all areas of his life. He was not able to receive supported living services. Steve was forced to move back with his only surviving parent, his mother. He was also unable to return to his former profession and attempted several others, unsuccessfully.

Steve is a typical male who wants and expects to be self-sustaining. His anger naturally increased with his inability to hold a job and support himself. He was also frustrated being, once again, dependent and virtually isolated. While his mother was supportive and helpful, this too proved very difficult for both of them.

Steve came to NeuroAdvancE through Kevin McMullen of the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, a State organization that assists in vocational placement. I remember the day Steve walked in with his mother and Kevin. A strong advocate for her son, Mrs. S. was an intelligent, confident woman who wanted on ensure the best for Steve. A 5'11", slender male with startling blue eyes, eyes almost "bulging" out of his head, also walked in. There were no visible signs of his severe injury. Steve could very well have been Kevin's neatly dressed, polite assistant. His demeanor was extremely sedate and serious, as I explained the NeuroAdvancE program to him and his mother. We discussed his injury and premorbid employment history. I expressed confidence that we could be of help to Steve and upon leaving, told him that we would be in touch shortly. Little did I know the reason for Steve's "bulging" eyes..."Extreme fear", Steve later confided to me. "I thought my mother had brought me to NeuroAdvancE that day to be committed"! His memory loss, confusion, and isolation had brought him to a familiar place to many traumatic brain injured. "I've finally lost my mind".

When Steve shared his story with me, I naturally had to ask if he thought I was Nurse Ratchett (from the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest). Steve laughed and said, "I didn't know who the heck you were, but you quickly put me at ease". The reason for this is simple. I frequently use my sense of humor and quickly sensed that Steve also had one that was not lost to his injury. In fact, Steve exhibits his terrific sense of humor often for many to enjoy. Who else could laugh at the fact that he can be told the same joke every day, by the same person and still think that person is a real comedian?

After weeks and months of testing, training, interviews, and resumes, Steve finally secured a job at Kolmar, a local manufacturer of cosmetics. Life was certainly not without trials and tribulations, sweat and tears, however, Steve has succeeded in his position. He is in the final stages of successful "supported" employment, being weaned from his job coach and working independently and flourishing as a valuable Kolmar employee after ten years of unemployment. Steve is well thought of by his co-workers and supervisors. He is conscientious, motivated and capable.

There are always conflicting emotions at this juncture. We at NeuroAdvancE are very proud and happy about his outstanding accomplishments but a little sorry to see him go. We wish him the best on life's journey.

And no, Steve, you are not being COMMITTED. You are being CONGRATULATED!!!

Revised: Saturday, February 23, 2002 08:42 AM