You know those nights when you are so excited for tomorrow to begin that you can barely get any sleep? Well the night before I started work at the Shepherd Center was just like that. The anticipation of working in the brain research lab at Shepherd Center is like a dream come true. Let me give you some background information about Shepherd Center and how and why I chose to intern there.
Shepherd Center is a non-profit hospital specializing in treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with brain and spinal chord injuries in Atlanta, GA. Shepherd Center is a world renown rehabilitation center known for it’s patient centered care that encompasses the whole family. My interest in Shepherd Center’s work, however, is not just based on professional excellence. I must tell you, it is extremely personal to me. My family first heard about the facility when my sixteen year old sister, Hannah sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling down the stairs outside her high school at the beginning of her junior year last August. In a mere second, our family’s life changed forever. Interestingly, It just so happened that I have been studying at Dickinson College as a Neuroscience/ Psychology major. It never occurred to me that my focus in college would come in handy for my immediate family. I found my self able to talk to the doctors about the severity of my sister’s injury as well as what precautions should be taken. I was the one that was explaining things to my parents as we all tried to grasp what had happened to my sister. She sustained three brain bleeds and a significant skull fracture, a crushed ear drum and canal, leaving her unable to communicate, walk, eat, hear or even know her name or how old she was. Our family was in panic mode. We knew that we needed to find a place that would focus on helping her regain her independence and Shepherd Center is where we turned. While my sister was in the ICU, my mom was looking up rehabilitation facilities for teenagers with TBIs and Shepherd Center was listed as one of the highest ranked rehab facilities. Shepherd Center has two different facilities: Pathways and Shepherd Center. Shepherd is an acute care rehabilitation center with inpatient hospitalization from intensive care to a brain injury unit as well as a spinal cord unit. Pathways is an outpatient facility that focuses on helping individuals with TBI gain skills to re-enter their communities. We were told that only 10% of the people with Hannah’s type of injury recover at the rate she did and with the success she has had. My family owes my sister’s success and recovery to the people at Shepherd Center. With their rehabilitation and guidance Hannah was able to re-enter school and complete her eleventh grade year with a few modifications. She is scheduled to graduate on time next year. While my mom stayed with Hannah, she made connections with an administrator , and told her that she had another daughter interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience research. Mom made the first connection, but I had to do the rest.
So an interview, multiple emails, a grant application and a move to Atlanta for the summer and here I am, working as an intern for the place responsible for giving my sister the tools she needed to live a normal life. Needless to say, after I continually heard the amazing things Shepherd has done for those with brain and spinal chord injuries I knew I had to get involved with their research team. Now I’m sure you can tell why I was so excited to start working for them.
As soon as I walked into the building, I knew that I was going to enjoy working for them. I have realized that there is an aura in Shepherd, where everyone there is nothing but nice and helpful to you. Everywhere you go, you are met by smiles. They have a vision there, where everyone is involved in someone’s treatment and has an influential role in a patient’s recovery. I learned very quickly that everyone there has the attitude of “whatever it takes” in order to help people feel comfortable and cared for. This is true for the interns as well. Everything is done in a very professional way. Before I could actually start working there I had to complete volunteer paperwork, have a TB shot and have a meeting with Dr. Seel, my mentor, about what would be expected of me for the summer. Luckily, he takes my interning very seriously and has already given me time out of his busy schedule. I can hardly wait to dive in and start the real work!