Many people have a profound life event or epiphany that confirms for them that they have chosen the right career path. For me, that event happened before my career even began. Just a few short weeks after graduating with my Bachelor's degree, my parents helped me move almost 600 miles away from home to prepare to start graduate school. I was following the required progression in my education to become a speech-language pathologist. Shortly after my parents said their goodbyes, my oldest sister stayed behind to help me get settled into my new apartment. I remember that we were in my room, just hanging out and talking, when we received a life-changing phone call. Two weeks later, while on his way to work, my dad (who had just driven back home from moving me into my apartment) had been in a terrible car accident. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), had to have brain surgery, and doctors were giving him a 50% chance of surviving.
Because my sister and I were way too distraught to comprehend what had just happened, let alone make sense of any travel plans, my roommate booked us flights home for the next day. I remember that part like it was yesterday. I barely knew my new roommate, and she sat at the kitchen table making our flight reservations. She actually misspelled my sister’s name, so how we actually got home is somewhat of a mystery to me as I think back to that day. I remember being nervous as I walked into the hospital. I couldn’t believe that my dad, who was the safest driver I’d ever met, had been in a near-fatal car accident and was fighting for his life. I was nervous to see him lying in the hospital bed, hooked up to every tube and machine imaginable. The surgeon said that the surgery went well, but all we could do was wait (and pray for the best).
If you're wondering how the story ended, it is still being written. My dad is alive and well, but the road to recovery was not easy. My dad has always been a pillar of strength for our family and beloved by all who knew him. Before his accident, he was extremely charismatic, friendly, and outgoing. So to see him start over and learn to walk, talk, and even eat again was nothing short of a miracle. I was not able to stay for long because I had to get back to school, so I was not around for all of the hospital stays, rehab centers, and countless speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy appointments. As I started my first semester in graduate school, I realized that I was taking a course on Language Disorders in Adults. It turned out that I was learning about traumatic brain injury at the same time that my dad was living through it. I would call my mom and try to share what I was learning in class in hopes that it would help my dad and help her understand what he was going through.
If I ever had any doubts about my career path before, this experience made them all disappear. I knew that I had chosen the right career. After this experience with my dad, my first thought was to plan to become a speech-language pathologist at a hospital or rehab center so I could help TBI patients like my dad. After graduation, I ended up taking a different path and decided to work with children instead. In the field of speech-language pathology, there are so many different types of people who need our help. When I chose this career, that was one aspect of the profession that I found most appealing. I could work with babies learning how to eat at home, children with autism at school, adults recovering from a stroke in a rehab center, and so much more. The field is vast, and the need is great. Every chance I get to help someone improve their communication is an opportunity to help others, like my dad, reach their full potential. #MayisBetterHearingAndSpeechMonth #BHSM #CommunicationAcrossTheLifespan #RaiseAwareness #ASHA #SpeechTherapy #speechpathologist #motivation