Building With Boulders After speech-language treatment helps her recover from a brain injury, a young mother finds a new purpose: becoming an SLP. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   December 01, 2015
Building With Boulders
Author Notes
  • Heidi Schmidt is a graduate student in speech-language pathology at the University of Nebraska. She expects to receive her master’s degree in May 2017, and plans to work in a medical/rehabilitative setting. heidischmidt@unomaha.edu;
    Heidi Schmidt is a graduate student in speech-language pathology at the University of Nebraska. She expects to receive her master’s degree in May 2017, and plans to work in a medical/rehabilitative setting. heidischmidt@unomaha.edu;×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Traumatic Brain Injury / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   December 01, 2015
Building With Boulders
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20122015.72
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.20122015.72
“We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.”—William Arthur Ward
How profound! Easy to say but not so easy to live, especially when the stones become boulders. But I learned that I can be a builder even in the face of boulders.
Nearly four years ago, I was a stay-at-home mother of three children (then ages 8, 6 and 2) with a devoted husband when I received a diagnosis of an acoustic neuroma. Following successful surgery to remove this benign tumor, swelling in my brain resulted in a brain injury. I spent more than a week in intensive care, dependent on machines to sustain my life. This boulder pummeled nearly every physical aspect of my life, including the ability to swallow. I spent nearly a month in inpatient rehabilitation, several weeks in a brain and spinal cord injury facility that focuses on medical, rehabilitation and psychological needs, and many sessions in outpatient therapy.
Propped in a wheelchair, unable to support my head and hardly able to keep my eyes open, I faced 12 hours of inpatient speech-language treatment per week with emphasis on memory, breath support, swallowing, facial massage and electrical stimulation on my laryngeal muscles. I knew such treatment might eventually get me back home to be with my husband and kids, so it became my favorite time of day. My speech-language pathologists gradually helped me chop the boulder into building blocks. They led and inspired me from the simplest goal of having my feeding tube removed to so much more: returning home to my family and regaining my independence.
I started checking things off my list—walking 100 feet, brushing my teeth with my right hand, drinking thin liquids. These smaller achievements eventually led to a larger goal—becoming an SLP to help other people achieve their goals.
Now a graduate student at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, I’m on my way to achieving that goal. My message to practicing SLPs is this: You are affecting lives far more than you might even realize.
SLPs may see clients only for a short time, but their progress continues beyond the treatment room. As you help people climb over stones, you can also be assured of the ripple effect of your influence in helping clients build new lives. SLPs inspire clients, parents and caregivers. What you do matters and touches lives!
At a time when I could easily have been tempted to throw stones or stumble over them, these special people held my hand and helped me climb over them, and encouraged me to lay foundations and build with them. I strive to share that compassion with my future clients.
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December 2015
Volume 20, Issue 12