Being a Speech-Language Pathologist is Still in My Heart I thought I had it all figured out. But the American Dream is occurring differently in my life. It all seems to have started while I was a graduate student in speech-language pathology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and began to experience numbness and tingling in my left ... First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   February 01, 2007
Being a Speech-Language Pathologist is Still in My Heart
Author Notes
  • Jennell Y Gordon, is a speech-language pathologist in Norfolk, VA. She enjoys listening to music, reading, and watching televised sports. Contact her at jenell_gordon@yahoo.com.
    Jennell Y Gordon, is a speech-language pathologist in Norfolk, VA. She enjoys listening to music, reading, and watching televised sports. Contact her at jenell_gordon@yahoo.com.×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Hearing Disorders / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Older Adults & Aging / School-Based Settings / Healthcare Settings / Professional Issues & Training / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   February 01, 2007
Being a Speech-Language Pathologist is Still in My Heart
The ASHA Leader, February 2007, Vol. 12, 47. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.12022007.47
The ASHA Leader, February 2007, Vol. 12, 47. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.12022007.47

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I thought I had it all figured out. But the American Dream is occurring differently in my life.
It all seems to have started while I was a graduate student in speech-language pathology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and began to experience numbness and tingling in my left extremities. Research at the campus library led me to conclude that the problem originated in the brain. On May 6, 1993, at age 28, I found out that my conclusions were correct when my neurologist and I discussed my MRI. After arriving home, I searched through my graduate school textbooks to find the answer to my quest and there it was… arteriovenous malformation (AVM). An AVM is a cluster of malformed veins and arteries. In my case, the congenital AVM was on the pons, near the brainstem, and removal was highly recommended.
Meanwhile, I completed my master’s degree at the University of Tennessee and began my career as an SLP in the Norfolk (VA) public school system. In addition, I began to search for the best physician to address my situation. The first doctor, a world-renowned neurosurgeon at the University of Virginia, could speak only of the inoperable position of the AVM in the pons. On the other hand, a second opinion from a neurosurgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut—known as the “guru of AVM”—established hope by suggesting a surgical procedure for safe removal. I was faced with life or death. I chose life, and I’m alive after a successful surgery. Afterwards, however, I was not given the equal opportunity for which this country stands.
After only two weeks of care, my insurance company demanded my transfer from Gaylord Rehabilitation Hospital in Connecticut, and I was moved by air ambulance to Sentara Nursing Home in Norfolk, a long-term care facility for the elderly. As a result, at age 41, I still have the same post-operative deficits.
I am a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair. I have a trach, a gastrointestinal tube, a profound unilateral sensorineural hearing loss in the right ear, and double vision in the right eye. I depend on my left eye for vision. My dysarthric speech is unintelligible to many listeners. I use a communication board with letters and numbers on one side and words on the other side, and I have an AAC device. I also use American Sign Language (ASL).
After working as a school-based SLP, I am now a patient at Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk. Even though I am very limited, I “continue” in my profession. Certified nursing assistants, nurses, respiratory therapists, and anyone who desires has learned the ASL alphabet from me. I have awarded 23 certificates to employees who have demonstrated proficiency in communicating with me.
As a patient, I have learned that the best policy is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Compassion, patience, and common sense are essential. The Lord makes it possible for me to communicate everything I want to convey. My goal is to persevere within the field of speech-language pathology, but for now I just want to revolutionize health care. I believe patient advocacy is the important work of the new millennium. Global access to appropriate and affordable health care should be a concern of everyone on this planet.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
February 2007
Volume 12, Issue 2