Read a feature on Kathleen in the Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
I am a physical therapist by education and practice. In April of 2003 I was in a car accident that caused a brain injury. It left me in a coma. I had brain surgery and once I came out of my coma, I realized that my arm, hand and ankle didn’t work and my left leg was weak. This caused me to have poor balance, coordination and endurance, as well as inability to work by myself and difficulty taking care of my personal needs.
I was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for intensive occupational and speech therapy that I needed to maximize my ability to take care of myself to return home. Finally, I had to rely on a wheelchair and couldn’t walk, but I learned how to apply the small plastic brace I needed for support on my leg and ankle.
My left ankle improved and I was able to use a straight cane to walk short distances. While my left arm and hand did not improve, I learned how to compensate with using just my right hand – good thing I was right handed to start with. Thanks to all the hard work of the therapists and nursing staff, as well as encouragement and support from my wonderful family, great friends and old coworkers, I was able to go home three months after my accident.
At home that support and my therapy continued. I was able to renew my driver’s license which enabled me to do more for myself. Individual trips were short and increased with time. I had come a long way and knew I wanted to be able to return to employment.
Due to my challenges, I was unable to return to my old job as a physical therapist. So what could I do? Where do I start? I started working with NH Vocational Rehabilitation Services. My counselor started to identify my interests and abilities and what I could do with them. She introduced me to Gail Sederquest, a job developer with Goodwill Workforce Solutions.
Gail guided, supported and encouraged me through the process of how to return to work. We developed a plan that started with volunteer work so I could limit my hours and days worked due to my low endurance. I volunteered to teach English and engaged in local campaign work.
Through close work with Gail from Goodwill Workforce Solutions, I was finally able to find the perfect job for me. I have a part time position in the activities department of a local senior living facility. I feel blessed to have found this position and look forward to every shift I work with the residents and staff. Thank you, Goodwill, for helping me find work to support myself.