I have always prided myself on being a person who could think “outside of the box.” My choice to become a nurse was confirmed in my heart and mind by the time I was in the 6th grade. Not exactly a unique career choice for a young woman growing up in the 1960s.
What has been unique is how I decided to use over 35 years of nursing experience in adult critical care units to create a niche business managing care for catastrophically injured people. Now I am a lifeline for injured clients and their families when the future looks bleak, and they don’t know to whom to turn for help and support.
Part of what was preparing me for this transition, unbeknownst to me, was work I’d been doing since I was a legal nurse consultant. This involved serving as a medical expert witness in legal catastrophic injury cases and helping attorneys and their legal staff interpret medical records and understand health care issues.
An unexpected opportunity to make a difference
My pivotal moment came one afternoon as I stood in my kitchen talking on the phone with a friend who is an advisor for a large financial services corporation. He described a client of his who had sustained a severe brain injury on the job. A large financial settlement had been awarded to the client from his employer.
For several years the client had been residing in a long-term care facility while waiting for his case to go to court. The case recently had been settled, and the allotted resources had been dispersed. It was now time to bring him home to live with his family.
As I heard my friend describe the client and his family, my mind was racing. So many questions were forming in my head about how this client’s needs would be met, and the answers were not obvious. That’s when I realized that my knowledge and experience in critical care nursing and as a legal nurse consultant could help people living with a catastrophic injury and their families put their lives back together. When my friend asked if I would help transition his client back home, I immediately said, “Yes.”
After several months of planning—arranging for in-home nursing care, learning about his needs and limitations, reviewing his medications, talking with his physicians, therapists, and family members, helping to purchase medical equipment for the house—he was able to transition home. That was almost three years ago—and so I began my work as a catastrophic care manager.
The rewards of helping injured clients of all ages
Although my nursing career had been strictly in the care of adults, I have found that working with families and their birth-injured children has been amazingly gratifying. One afternoon, I received a call about a client who was a 7-year-old girl. She and her family had been awarded a significant settlement for an injury she sustained at birth. Her parents needed help implementing her Special Needs Trust resources.
I met with the parents in their one-bedroom, basement level apartment that had no handicap accessible features. We discussed the hopes and dreams they had for their daughter and what they hoped she could accomplish now that they had the resources. They were very pleased with the school she was attending and wanted her to continue going there. So our search for a home was limited to a 10-mile radius from the school.
Since I understand the challenges of living with a catastrophic injury, I know what it takes to ensure that the home environment and vehicles used to transport her would be appropriate. I worked with the family and their trustee to purchase a handicap accessible van and a four-bedroom ranch style house. Collaborating with experts in those fields, I oversaw the process to provide the needed modifications and devices to accommodate the family’s needs. I continue to support them as their child grows and her needs evolve—as I do with most of my clients.
Each one of my clients is unique and very special. Their physical, emotional, and medical needs span a broad range and require ongoing support for the injured client, their families and caregivers. It is what gets me up every morning with an expectation for a day filled with opportunities to make their wishes a reality.