I'm Caroline Beck and a Global Public Health major and French minor at the University of Virginia. I have an uncle with a brain injury and I wanted hands-on experience to see how brain injury affects people. My most rewarding activity is teaching Don to read again after he suffered from aphasia. We read together and review the sounds and shapes of letters three times a week, and watching him improve makes me proud to be part of the Supportive Living team.
Don has opened up to me a lot about his past during our one-on-one time. Don had a troubled past and just having someone to joke around with seems therapeutic for him. It helps him to talk, laugh, and be active with people who will push him to be a little bit stronger every day. It is so important to the residents to feel heard and cared about. Additionally, I am making an amazing friend in the process.
I have learned that brain injury does not discriminate. There are people as young as thirty and of all different backgrounds at Supportive Living who have been irreparably affected by their brain injury. But I have also learned that people not all affected equally. There is no single way to suffer a traumatic or acquired brain injury.
The brain is more complex and incredible than I could have imagined. When there are residents playing (and winning) at chess but unable to remember my name from 10 minutes prior, you can see the way the brain heals and does not heal from injuries like those suffered by SLI residents.
At first I was nervous to be around people who, to me, were different which I think is how many people react to people with brain injury. After this experience, I learned that a brain injury can eventually become just one part of who a person, rather than defining them. I know motorcycle engineers, bike enthusiasts, animal lovers, employees, bakers, and so many others who have incorporated their injury into their identity instead of letting it define them. I've grown to respect them and the accomplishments they are making each day just by getting up and coming to the wellness center or group activities. I've also learned a lot about patience and kindness, as both are instrumental to being an intern here.
I really hope to work as a pediatric PA or NP in the future and I think that patience is something I will definitely leave Supportive Living with, which can only help while working in the medical field. I also believe that working with the residents has reminded me to see everyone as a whole person. Medical professionals often get criticized for seeing patients as cases instead of people. With a background at Supportive Living, I can see an individual as multifaceted and not defined by their health, which will help me to be a better healthcare provider in the future.