I was a 35-year-old attorney with another Master’s Degree when I suffered my brain aneurysm in February 2001. After having such a life-changing event, the only thing you want and care about are the things that do not have any monetary value. Family, independence and the feeling of being needed were all I could think about. To make matters worse, months later, I also went through two strokes that left me with short-term memory loss. I lost my job, my marriage ended in divorce and I moved to a rehabilitation center because my immediate family was unable to take care of me.
In 2004, I was referred by the Virginia Employment Commission to an agency known as the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services (DARS). Within, a few months, I was able to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance and was sent to a brain injury program at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. While there, I developed two dreams: walking independently and returning to work. Unfortunately, I experienced another setback at attempting to recoup the life I once knew, I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
From 2004 to 2009, I made an effort to walk again. Miraculously, one of my two dreams had been accomplished. Walking independently, check! With this new milestone, I was able to return to DARS, and within 10 months my counselor called me about a position with Rappahannock Goodwill Industries (Fredericksburg, VA). I interviewed for the follow-up clerk position at the Culpeper Job Help Center. Usually it is hard to tell if the staff of any company embodies their mission, but the energy and care that the Fredericksburg Goodwill® interviewers showed me, that if I got this job, I would be in good hands.
After 12 years of being unemployed, I started my new position on July 1, 2015. Surreal was all I felt at the moment. Not the heartache, pain and rejection that had become all a little too familiar. To make things even better, I was granted an ability counselor, Trish Green, who to this day still works closely with me and my supervisor on matters of accommodating my everyday needs.
My coworkers are more than aware of my memory deficits. Staff that has become family graciously take time out of their day to kindly send reminder emails of important tasks. My work schedule is extremely flexible and allows me to keep up with my doctors’ appointments. To maximize my talents and minimize my seizures, my supervisor gave me an office instead of a cubicle, my two monitors have anti-glare screens, I receive a flexible number of 15-minute breaks and my supervisor is always only a call or few steps away. Within a year, I was promoted from clerk to specialist. I now have the task of following up with all participants from Charlottesville to Culpeper. My caseload has quadrupled. I thank God for the miraculous level of physical healing I have had. Still, I would not have felt like a whole person without returning to marketplace employment. Something would have been missing in my life without the opportunity that Goodwill gave me.