It was an early morning start to a day that had begun as so many have preceding it. As I drove to work before the dawn had peaked over the horizon, I was blissfully unaware of the impact this day would have on me. The thought that this crisp, autumn day in October might be my last or anyone’s last day to live had never crossed my mind. As I entered my workplace I instantly gained awareness of my surroundings. I have worked with brain-injured individuals for three years. Making it impossible not to recognize that our comfortable, meaningful lives can be altered in the flash of a beautiful memory.
Every day when I arrive at work I am overcome with a feeling of responsibility of my clients. That feeling of guardianship has never diminished in the years I have spent working with such diverse individuals. One client in particular, Kenny, has overcome incredible obstacles, remaining as optimistic as ever. I personally admire his sense of appreciation of life even after being a victim of such traumatic events. For Kenny, the injury was as simple as slipping on black ice and hitting the back of his head, causing unimaginable damage to his brain functions.
As I stand in the dining room waiting for dinner to be served, amongst half a dozen anxiously prepared clients, I know they have grown impatient. It’s a quaint room with four tables and only twelve or so seats. The room, like most here, gives the feel of traditional design. The owner, straying from industrial impressions, tries to give the feel of home away from home. A client stands by the window intently watching our chef finish meddling with the burgers and hot dogs atop the flame-throwing grill. A grill-out is a rare happening here; the clients have become anxious for a variation from the pre-made menu. The food is finally ready to serve after special attention is paid to the pristine presentation of each plate, following strict guides of high quality set by the owner. As I pass these well-portioned plates around to each of the clients, they start to devour food immediately as if they have not eaten in days. Last I take a plate to Kenny, following protocol, I must sit with him as he eats, ensuring his safety and providing specific cues to take small bites and drink water often. As more clients enter the dining room I stand to retrieve more plates for them, all the while paying close attention to Kenny. When I arrive back to Kenny his face presented with a look of panic. He had begun to choke on his hot dog.
I fearlessly and seamlessly shift into a mindset of urgency. Flawlessly, I lift Kenny, easily twice my size, out of his wicker chair. I wrap my long thin arms around his large but very fragile body just below his chest. At this point, the man I fondly admire for his perseverance has a blue tone to his distressed face. Having my arms around his weakening body, fingers locked, I thrust with all the strength my small-framed body can give. After several attempts of these thrusts and heaving his...