2017 PCIG Recipient Caroline Beck

Caroline Beck – July 2nd, 2017

Caroline Beck

2017 PFIG Winner
Caroline Beck
Major: Public Health 
UVA 2019

Internship: Supportive Living, Inc. , Woburn MA

Read about my internship

Journal Entry #1

My first month working at Supportive Living Inc. has been more satisfying and challenging than I could have possibly imagined. As an intern, I spend an extensive amount of time getting to know each one of the residents living at the four live-in facilities that SLI runs. In particular I have been working with Helen, a 78 year-old woman recovering from her most recent stroke, and Donald, a 55 year-old male also recovering from a stroke and a seizure disorder. Each of these two individuals experience very different repercussions from their injuries along with their unique personalities. They’ve greatly increased my knowledge of the brain and how it responds and adapts to injury, as well as taught me the importance of working in public service.

            Donald, before his injury, was a grocery store manager struggling heavily with alcoholism that proceeded to end his professional career along with his relationship with his wife of 10 years. After his stroke, he suffered from limited mobility on the right side of his body including fine motor skills along with aphasia (the inability to read/understand written language). After being placed into a nursing for many years, Don was moved to SLI and began work on walking and gaining strength again. During fitness, I work with Don to increase his confidence in walking along with strengthening the muscles of his right side. Cognitively, Don has problems with memory and speech stuttering but is typically able to complete full thoughts when given the chance to do so, however he still suffers from seizures from time to time. Furthermore, using tracing and word cards, I am assisting Don in re-learning how to read.

            Helen is another patient that I work with on a regular basis. On the outset she appears to have little to no cognitive or physical disabilities following her stroke earlier this year. Her most prominent mental problem is survivor’s guilt for being so physically capable which can sometimes lead to depression. However she works extremely hard and accomplished both her goals over the past 4 weeks, standing up without using her hands to support and spending 5+ minutes on the treadmill.

The most interesting part of this internship so far has been trying to understand the mechanisms of the brain. One of the common themes among the residents I work with is their love for chess. Many of these survivors of massive brain injuries are unable to remember my name within a few minutes of my saying it. However, when an intern plays a resident in chess, they are able to remember the moves each piece can make and establish a strategy to win. Oftentimes they actually beat the intern. It has been incredible to observe that which the brain is able to hold onto after a trauma and that which is damaged. Supportive Living Inc. and those who live there have opened my eyes to the world of brain trauma along with educated me in the value of patience, determination, and hard work to achieve a goal. 

Journal Entry #2

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As I continue working at Supportive Living Inc, I fall more in love with the work I am privileged enough to do. While I continue to run fitness with new 4 new patients, I have also taken on projects of my own within the organization. Our nutrition research group has completed a pilot menu to replace the current meal plan at one of the four residential houses I work in. This new plan has been created in through individual research on diet and brain injuries along with collaboration from the Boston University nutrition department. The menu will be implemented in the next few weeks with the hopes of shifting the diet of the residents to increase their overall health. Additionally, I along with a few other interns have started to hold healthy cooking classes with the residents each Friday morning. This has given them the opportunity to practice fine motor skills through cutting, stirring, and measuring in addition to life skills that allow them more independence and confidence. The classes also give the residents a chance to see a healthy meal being cooked and incentives them to eat healthier since they took part in creating the meal.

Besides nutrition, I also continue working with resident Don on his reading. The challenge lies in his desire to memorize words as opposed to understanding the letters and the sounds they make; he has trouble reasoning the word out through phonetics. With the help of some iPad apps and 1st grad word cards, we work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on helping him learn the sounds combinations of letters make so that he can read street signs, menus, newspapers, and other important documents necessary when leading an independent life. It has been far more challenging than I could imagine to teach someone to read even though they can speak flawlessly. The brain is incredible in its ability to remain completely functional in some tasks while incapable in others. As a future medical practitioner, working so intimately with these various injuries is such a unique and valuable experience.

Although I have only been working at SLI for a few weeks, I know that I have formed connections with both my fellow interns and the residents/patients we work with that will remain with me forever. The feeling I have when a resident even so much as remembers my name shows that they value us the same way we value them. With only four week of summer remaining, the quickly approaching end of my time at SLI will not be well recieved.  

Journal Entry #3

more information coming soon...