Hello From the Other Side An SLP transforms from clinician to caregiver in the midst of Hurricane Harvey. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   June 01, 2018
Hello From the Other Side
Author Notes
  • Brynn Jones-Rastelli, MS, CCC-SLP, recently relocated to Pittsburgh, where she is a clinician with UPMC Mercy Hospital and with Dysphagia Management Systems, LLC. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 2, Neurogenic Communication Disorders; and 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). rebeccabrynn@gmail.com
    Brynn Jones-Rastelli, MS, CCC-SLP, recently relocated to Pittsburgh, where she is a clinician with UPMC Mercy Hospital and with Dysphagia Management Systems, LLC. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 2, Neurogenic Communication Disorders; and 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). rebeccabrynn@gmail.com×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Balance & Balance Disorders / Healthcare Settings / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Traumatic Brain Injury / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   June 01, 2018
Hello From the Other Side
The ASHA Leader, June 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23062018.72
The ASHA Leader, June 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23062018.72
On Aug. 26, 2017, a devastating natural disaster struck my hometown of Houston, Texas. That same day my husband suffered a fall that resulted in a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).
I worked at a large level-1 trauma hospital in the heart of downtown Houston and had been asked to bring in an overnight bag in case a Code Gray—signifying external disaster and hospital emergency operation—was called. My husband was helping me into my car with my things when I heard him hit the ground.
The moment of the accident remains permanently tattooed in my mind. Hurricane Harvey had made landfall at Rockport the night before and was working its way up the coast toward Houston. It was already raining steadily. I remember screaming in the rain as my husband lay unconscious with blood trickling out of his ear. I knew I had to get him to the hospital as fast as possible. Thankfully, I got through to 911. If his accident had happened later on during the weekend, we would have been stranded with no way to get to a hospital.
We were transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center of Houston, where I work. Code Gray was called that night, and nurses began to sleep in shifts, sometimes only four hours at a time. Despite the nurses’ lack of sleep, my husband and I were well attended to. We were discharged three days later to a home that, thankfully, had sustained no flood damage.
I learned a lot about the other side of speech-language pathology—the patient and family side. Before this incident, the SLP in me would have been less concerned about a patient with my husband’s symptoms. Living with these symptoms as a caregiver and wife was a completely different experience, and has given me insight into the challenges patients with TBI face as they heal.
For weeks following his accident, my husband suffered from hyperacusis, vertigo, hearing loss, cognitive fatigue, poor selective attention and flat affect. He required slow and systematic reintegration into his previous activities and environments. Though his neurologic symptoms largely resolved after about six weeks, he continues to have intermittent vertigo and mild conductive hearing loss.
I am now aware of the psychological toll that our patients’ caregivers endure through their loved one’s hospital stay and recovery. I still get jumpy every time it rains. I worry excessively over my husband any time he stubs his toe. I live in a hyperaware state that our lives could change at any second, and that our time together is temporary.
It is remarkable how the worst of experiences can outline our priorities with outstanding clarity. My husband and I have a greater awareness of our gratitude for each other, and the time we spend together is more deliberate. Our relationships with friends, and especially my relationships with my coworkers, are stronger. I am more empathetic, and I have a greater understanding of my patients’ and their caregivers’ perspectives. The experience of our entire Houston community becoming a family to one another—and to us—in the face of crisis and devastation gave us the strength and support we needed to endure.
We survived Hurricane Harvey. We are navigating the effects of mild TBI. I am proud to say my husband completed his PhD in chemistry at the University of Houston in December 2017, and is now completing a post-doctoral fellowship in medicinal chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. #Houstonstrong #TBIstrong.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
June 2018
Volume 23, Issue 6