I want to tell you a story. It’s one that I know better than anyone else because it’s mine. Imagine it’s somewhere in mid-western United States. It’s the fall of the year and I’m on a serene college campus, where leaves are changing from green to red, gold & brown. It is the early 1970’s. My primary means of transportation is walking. I travel between massive stately old buildings and more modern construction, on my way to classes, the library or the student union. My most pressing concern is attending classes and writing term papers. All that I need to do is fulfill academic requirements and then my future will nearly be guaranteed. Life is very good and I’m completely content.
On November 11, 1971, when I was 20 years old, I was a passenger in a car that was involved in a head-on collision in the Ann Arbor area. In that split second, my career changed from one of a Special Education teacher to an entry level position in the field of brain injury recovery.
I got an impressive set of credentials that afternoon. My right wrist was crushed, both my eyes would never again work together and I sustained a severe brain stem injury.
I don’t remember anything from the middle of November-1971 until the end of February-1972. I don’t recall anything of the visits from my friends of the daily vigil of my mother, who spent her days talking and reading to my comatose form.
I had to relearn how to do everything and that happened very gradually, but with great determination. Different people who I liked and respected became my role models. My role models changed as my needs changed.
In 1978, I ran-away to another state where I knew no one, to see if I could start a new life. I tried to leave all of my terrible accident related experiences in Detroit and start over. But I couldn’t do it! My injury had become the dominant factor controlling my life. I returned home in early 1980.
Because the driver of the car in which I was a passenger, was an uninsured motorist, I received no financial compensation for my injuries. Therefore, I had to rely on the State to pay for any Brain Injury treatment I got.
I started a private practice in social work, so that nobody could fire me. believed that I could help others to reintegrate into the mainstream, because I was getting pretty good at that myself.
Today, I am working in my chosen field of interest with clearly defined guidelines and goals. I have been functioning as a Disability Life Coach for some time now. As a Life Coach, my primary responsibility is to listen, ask questions and to provide modeling, motivation and structure to survivors and those who support them.
Discovering someone’s hopes, dreams and aspirations are critical elements for establishing any coaching relationship. As a Life Coach, I listen for things to clarify, magnify and examine more deeply with my clients.
My greatest strengths are in group work and I have created a support group format for teaching survivors of anything, how to accept their trauma. The purpose of an acceptance group is to develop attitudes and teach skills necessary for successful INTER-DEPENDENT LIVING!
Finally, I’ve learned that with time, persistence and attention to limitations physical, emotional and intellectual, I can conquer that which is difficult. I accept myself with all of my limitations and I must remember that recovery is not only making progress, it is taking one step!