For those of you that don't know, that's Lauren Pokuta in the picture with me. Lauren is an area teen who was in a very serious car accident last August. She sustained a brain stem injury that left her comatose, on a ventilator and with a feeding tube. As you can see, she no longer needs the ventilator and you probably can't see that she no longer needs her feeding tube (taken out the day before her 18th birthday in April!). Her dad says she "eats like a horse" and I've shared a snack with her recently and I'm pretty sure that I agree with him.
Back in November, 2011 a representative from Stay Strong for Lauren, a non-profit group set up to help the family with expenses, came to speak at my networking group, Business Women United Network. We watched a video and listened to the story and I can tell you for sure....that we were EACH touched in a way that day that we never expected to be. I had heard the story. My son went to the same high school so you instantly feel for ANY family that is part of your child's school community. This was different though. I can't really explain it and I'm not sure I need to. While I was watching and listening, I felt this STRONG pull to help but "what could I do?" Sure I could give money for the equipment she needed but I wanted to do more...and then, the woman recanting Lauren's story looked RIGHT AT ME and said "donations are needed to continue Lauren's therapy services." Ding. Ding. Ding. There it was and so I began a journey to find out exactly how I could go about donating some therapy sessions for her-which wasn't an easy task considering I needed to talk to my national organization, attorney, accountant and then approach the family. Somehow, it all fell into place though and so here we are several months later...I'm donating 8 sessions of speech therapy to the family.
Ahhh. Yes. This photo was taken at our second visit. Lauren does this thing with her mouth when she's being funny or not really sure she wants to do something you've asked her to do...and here it is...only you can see, I failed miserably trying to recreate it! We had a great laugh.
My place in Lauren's treatment is an interesting one. She has TWO other speech language pathologists on her case (one from the hospital and one from the school). The nice thing about this is that she has 3 different sets of eyes and levels of expertise on her case. I am still finding my niche with her and what I need/want to focus on but for now, we are working on breath support (because she is very, very weak here and does not vocalize consistently on command yet), comprehension, orientation to day/time, short term memory, and an alternative communication system. Lauren currently uses an alphabet board to spell out entire sentences to you. In fact, at our last session, in response to her aide saying "your dad is at work, well he's golfing." Lauren spelled out "that's not work!" Obviously her sense of humor is intact.
I picked up on Lauren's love of the iPad at our first meeting, mostly because she beat the pants off of me at UNO , but I feel that I have found my place in her treatment. I have always been the type of therapist that takes a desire or "like" and tried to help a client learn skills through that "like." This is no exception. Using the iPad we can do ALL of the things Lauren needs. Interestingly enough, I am the only SLP on the team who has this iPad knowledge-I don't think that was an accident though, do you?
Before our last session, I loaded 3 apps on my iPad to test with her. Let's just say, one of them was a HUGE hit and here is a video of her using it. It's called Brain Lab and it's marketed in the therapy community as being helpful for those with Traumatic Brain Injuries. Basically, you are timed while performing tasks for comprehension (adding, ordering numbers, answering questions etc..) Here she is on the second or third level ordering numbers from least to greatest...I can't remember which level she was on because she was so excited to try this and then moved so quickly through the first two levels I lost track!
I hope you stay tuned to my blog, for the next seven weeks, to see how we progress and get to know each other. I am excited to be a part of her treatment and am very pleased that the family is allowing me to share the journey with you. If you want to read more or perhaps make a donation, I am including her Caring Bridge and Stay Strong for Lauren links here.
Thanks for reading! They won't ALL be this long.