|Meet Chavonne, an independent person whose life was
changed one night from a blaze and subsequent brain injury. This is
her story in her own words:
When I woke up, I didnít know what to think! Iíll explain but
let me start by telling you what happened to me.
One night I came home from work and I was
hungry. I didnít own a microwave at that time so I heated up some
food on the stove. I lay down while the food was heating and I fell
asleep, though I didnít mean to. I donít know how much time went
by but I woke up and realized that the house was smoky. I got up and
walked to the kitchen and I saw the flames - my kitchen was on fire!
At that point I attempted to call the fire department but I was
overcome by the smoke and I passed out and all the while I was
inhaling the smoke and fumes from the fire. I went into a coma and
when the firefighters came I was taken to the hospital. While I was
still in the coma I was transferred to an acute care hospital and
that is where I woke up. I was in the coma for over two weeks.
Chavonne with CNA's Patricia Finch and
I grew up in the city in a close family. My dad worked for the
transit system and my mom was a home attendant. I have a brother and
sister and a large extended family.
I had a good life. I worked as a payroll administrator and I was at
my last job for over two years, prior to that I was a payroll clerk
and bookkeeper at another company for seventeen years.
When I woke up in the hospital, I looked around and I thought ďwhere
am I and how did I get here?Ē I got up out of the bed and I
remember that I walked to the nurses station and I asked them where
I was and how I got there? The nurses spoke with me and then they
took me and helped me back to bed.
The next thing I remember was my dad coming to visit me and he told
me what had happened. My reaction was one of shock - I didnít
remember the incident or what had happened. A number of family and
friends came to see me and told me the same story. I was very
curious about how I ended up where I was because I couldnít
remember and eventually I realized that I now had a problem with my
memory because of the coma, especially my short-term memory so I
always asked a lot of questions about my experience.
My long-term memory is very good; however,
I remember everything, including events that happened years go, up
until my injury. I can still remember things like peoples phone
I was very lucky, I was rescued quickly and I was not burned in the
fire and I have no physical issues but cognitively I had problems.
Chavonne with Jean Faichney, MS OTR/L.
It was a long road for me from the hospital, and trying to
survive and live before I came to Northeast Center - it was
Iíve learned a lot here. After breakfast every day I get
my mental book where I keep track of what time everything
is, where it is, when it is and how it is! This has helped
me a lot. Being organized keeps me on an even keel so I know
when and where to get things done. I also try to memorize
names to the best of my ability so I know my counselors and
therapists. Anita, my occupational therapist helped me to
learn how to do this.
Physical therapy has also helped me to get strong. I
practice walking and I can walk up and down stairs with my
therapist. That helps me when I go to Peter's dance class -
I get down with the rock and roll sound - Ďshake your
booty!í (Kellie laughs).
All my classes at Northeast Center helped me to get this far
- people told me I could do it and I started thinking that I
could. Something else that has helped me is my belief in the
Lord - if you can believe in the Lord you can believe in
yourself also. One morning I said a prayer and from then on
I knew that I could make it. It took me a long time to
convince myself that I was doing good, much less making it
but when I knew I was going to be leaving and going to an
apartment, then I knew that I was going to be fine.
I came to Northeast Center after the
hospital. My dad brought me here and I cried the entire trip. My dad
told me that I needed help and that this was best place and they
would help me get to where I needed to be so I could go back to my
previous life. Iíve always been independent and lived by myself,
traveled and worked. It was a big transition for me to be away from
my normal home life, but I quickly came around. I saw what was
offered and I said to myself that I needed to start working to get
better so I went to classes at the Center and started working on
I had occupational therapy and speech which were important for my
rehabilitation, and the classes offered in the brain injury program
at Northeast Center helped me to learn to organize myself. I got a
lot out of the Preview and Plan class. Other classes I took were
Cognitive Remediation, Well-Being, and Social Skills. The Special
Educators who teach the classes at Northeast Center helped me in my
recovery and I learned a lot of compensatory tools from them that I
use every day.
One area I worked hard at is improving my memory and using
strategies to help me remember. I started using a daily planner and
I also use a Palm Pilot to stay organized. I enter notes all the
time, what I did during the day, or if someone called me, I also
make a daily schedule for myself so I always have a reference to go
to. The Palm Pilot is good for a week and than it automatically
erases, but the notebook planner I can use long-term so I can always
go back and track what I did and those notes help me to remember
Chavonne with Victor Zelek, Ph. D., Director of Brain
Mapping, Neuro-Imaging and Neurofeedback Therapeutics.
The staff here like the Educators, Nurses and others - pushed me and
motivated me to continue to work hard and improve myself. Gerry
Brooks (Director of Brain Injury Programs) was a great help and I
especially appreciate Jean Faichney, my OT who worked very hard with
me. It was Jean that suggested the Palm Pilot which as I said is
very a very helpful tool. Jean also taught me the way to write notes
so that I can continue to stay organized.
I also became very involved in the community at Northeast Center I
have been very active and made a lot of new friends. I was even
elected President of our Resident Council!
On Friday they have a Street Festival here at the Center with live
music. I started going every week and I just listened to the music.
One day Rick Soshenksy and Peter Bass who do the Music Programs here
asked me if I wanted to sing so I started singing in the music
groups with the band made up of Resident-Neighbors. We played a lot
and once we even went out to a local place called the Muddy Cup,
myself along with a group of Resident-Neighbors performed there and
we got a great response! We had a wonderful time and I enjoyed it.
Iím leaving soon and I am very excited to
return to the community. I am going to miss the people here - both
staff and Resident-Neighbors but I plan to come back and visit.
I am going to live in an apartment in the
city. Iím looking forward to it - fixing it up, decorating and
making it my own place. Iím going to be getting services from the
New York State TBI Waiver when I return home. I eventually plan on
returning to work.
If someone went through what I have I would tell them to come to the
Northeast Center - itís a very helpful place with a comfortable
atmosphere and the people that work here worked to make a difference
Chavonne is now living back in the
community. Reentry to the most integrated settings is
a major focus of our mission for TBI survivors and that
means you, or your loved one, or your client - with the
specialty rehabilitation programs for traumatic brain injury in the Northeast Center for
Special Care community.