The Performance of a Lifetime – 2019 Rehab ChampionPatient Experience
Mar 31, 2019
On the morning of October 1, 2013, Sara Beth Gerard left for work as usual. She never arrived at the high school where she was an English and Drama teacher. A head-on crash sent her unconscious to the ER with multiple injuries.
Her family was told she was in an accident but it was hours before they would hear her condition or know if she would survive. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, punctured lung and multiple broken bones.
Although Sara Beth gained strength and physical abilities day by day, she lost all memory of the last five years of her life. She needed comprehensive rehabilitation.
After multiple surgeries and several weeks at an inpatient facility, Sara Beth came to the Brooks Neuro Rehabilitation Day Treatment Program. This program helps to ease the transition from acute care or inpatient rehabilitation to home. It was created to help patients improve cognitive/thinking, communication ability, social skills and emotional stability, all while regaining physical abilities.
During her initial evaluation for the program, Sara Beth was asked about her goals. Ever the performer, she said she wanted to be able to do a split again and wear high heels (but not at the same time). Her care team learned she was an actress and singer and began to help her regain her performance skills.
They started teaching her skills to memorize her lines. Her speech therapist helped her with her breathing so she could sing again. They encouraged her to audition for a new show and surprised her by coming to see her perform.
Sara Beth also returned to teaching. It was going well until she had a seizure. Doctors said it was likely cause by the brain injury and stress. They tried multiple medications but the seizures continued. Her school was incredibly understanding and even taught her students what to do if she had another seizure in class. However, after two seizures in one day, Sara Beth took a leave of absence.
During that time, she volunteered with the Neuro Rehab Day Treatment Program. She loved helping other brain injury survivors. One of her favorite mantras while she recovered was “It could always be worse” and that same positive attitude helped inspire others. She enjoyed cooking meals for them and sharing wisdom only someone who has been in their shoes could understand.
When a rehab tech position opened in the program, Sara Beth applied and was hired in May 2018. She is so comfortable in her new position that she no longer suffers from seizures. According to her co-workers, Sara Beth does an extraordinary job to make patients feel at ease with her caring, kind, creative and lively spirit. Her journey has truly come full circle now as an employee of the program that assisted her through her own exceptional recovery.
Sara Beth was recently awarded the Brooks Rehabilitation “Rehab Champion” Award. To select a winner, employees nominate a former Brooks patient who has met the challenges of physical rehabilitation and whose courage and tenacity has been a source of inspiration to others. He or she demonstrates care and concern by giving support to someone who may be facing similar trials, through sharing their experiences in overcoming both physical and emotional challenges. Sara Beth is the epitome of a rehab champion.