Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Today, I was working with a client, one who suffers from a traumatic brain injury. He's happy. Obviously intelligent, he 'talks' fluidly, tapping out words rapidly on his letter board. He likes to read, so we have something in common. Sometimes I think that the conversations we have are as important as the range of motion that I am giving to his contractured arms. So, we 'talk' and it always starts with me calling out to him as he is pushed into the room. He grins, and he grins big, and makes excited noises. "What's my name? Do you remember my name?" and he stares. When I prompt him: "It begins with a D..." he always, always gets it, and he spells it for me, repeating it in his garbled voice.

We exercise, and we blab. For the first time, I am glad to be a blabber mouth. He spells words back to me. Sometimes he gets excited, and tries to talk, and I say, "You'll have to spell it," and his twisted fingers fly. The first time that he spelled to me, "I like you," was a touching moment. I said back: "And I like you."

Today, I was working with him for the last time. He was having a good time, and got very excited about the activity we were doing. In the middle of it, he looked up to me and said something. I'd heard it before, and the sounds were familiar, so I said, "I like you too," and I patted his shoulder. He began to get his frustrated look and I said, "Well, you'll have to spell it for me," and he did. ""

There was no point in telling him that I was leaving, that it was our last session. It would only upset him. The plain fact of it is that his short term memory is so poor that by next week, he will probably not remember me at all.

I look down at him, teary eyed. He's nearly forty, but he has the features of a boy, and I cannot look at him without seeing the face of one of my own children. I pat him on the shoulder, and I say, "And you, my friend, are my very favorite," and he is excited to hear that.

Later, he is being pushed from the room, and I watch him go. He will not remember me, but I will never forget him.

Later I was sitting with two women, and as they worked on their projects, I explained this was my last week. One of them looked up at me and said, "I will miss you," and I said, "I will miss you too. You are two of my very favorite people." And the other one looked up at me quickly. She always tells me that I am a pain in her butt, and I always come back with, "Yeah, but I'm your FAVORITE pain in the butt, right?" which tickles her to no end. Anyways, pain-in-the-butt woman says accusingly, "Are you going to cry?" I laugh, and say, "I imagine so. I'm quite a crier." She goes back to activity and says, "Well, you just need to get over it." Made me laugh out loud.

Today, I had a cooking activity with one of our clients who lives independently. We were talking. She was telling me that she uses my exercise program every night. It's fun, she says. That's nice. I tell her that I'm really going to miss working with her. She's so motivated and independent. She's my favorite.

I'm not lying to them. They ARE my favorites.

All of them.


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

A huge part of being able to work with the population of developmentally disabled individuals in that ability to Love Them, Everyone. They are mostly innocent and respond to the slightest affectionate gesture with unconditional love.

Anonymous said...

Debby, This brought tears to my eyes! But them a crier like you. But hey I will Miss YOU too at the TSC when you are done there, so best wishes for you in your new endevors. I know you will be wonderful and will help so many people. Debbie L.

Nancy Gerber said...

So glad that you feel that way about the people you help. Too many people are treated badly in those situations and you give me hope. It says a lot about you. Congrats as well on your upcoming graduation.