The first year we were married, Kim finished graduate school and I taught a semester at Oberlin College while finishing my degree.
The second year I finished graduate school while she worked her CFY – Clinical First Year at the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center.
She began right after school ended , so really she did her nine months there and was done before I defended my thesis.
A recruiter found her her job at Grace Hospital more than twenty years ago.
It’s kind of funny. I always thought I’d be a college professor for life. I thought I’d find a school and stay there for my entire career. Instead, I changed jobs and professions several times while she worked at Grace til the day she died.
She was on the road traveling from one site to another to help a colleague who had more patients than she’d anticipated. Kim was going to spend the afternoon helping her and then go to the wake for another friend of hers.
Instead she was rushed to the hospital and I frantically called her work to let them know she wasn’t going to make it to the west side today.
Or, as it turned out, ever.
Kim loved the rehab team at Grace. I tried to get her to quit for many years. Find someplace they appreciate you. Find someplace you can do real therapy again.
It’s the mistake that every husband knows not to make – and yet we do.
We listen to our wife complain day after day about their job and so we support her and give her advice. We want to see her happier. But she doesn’t want advice. She just wants to vent.
Kim loved the rehab team.
When she first started she was on a small rehab team in a small community hospital. I heard stories about Craig, and Scott, and especially Rick.
During her first week she told me of a doctor who was rounding with a bunch of med students. He walked into a room Kim was in and looked at one of her patients. The doctor wanted to know why this patient wasn’t getting better when Mr. Reeves was.
“Mr. Reeves?” Kim asked trying to think of whether there was a Mr. Reeves anywhere on her case load.
“Mr. Reeves,” the doctor answered. ” He seems to be coming along nicely.”
Suddenly Kim realized the doctor was talking about the man who played Superman in the movies. The actor.
People would suggest she put hot sauce on a patient’s tongue because they saw it in some movie.
People thought that all Kim did was talk to people and anyone can talk. So they assumed they knew her field.
When I met her, Kim was studying different kinds of strokes and brain issues and how they presented and how you work with those patients. She loved that part of her work. She worked with cognition, swallowing, and everything in between.
Kim loved when doctors treated her like the professional she was. She would offer her opinion and never minded when they recommended something different than she had suggested if they had listened to her and considered what she said.
She particularly hated when a doctor would ask a speech question and direct it at a male instead of Kim. She had a masters degree in the field. Some guy without a day in speech would get the question and tell the doctor what he thought. Kim would be mad at that guy too. He should have told the doctor to ask Kim.
Kim once went and complained to a hospital administrator about a dispute she was having with a doctor. The doctor would order procedures that were not medically justified. You can’t perform a cognitive test on someone in a coma but you can bill for it.
The woman was someone Kim really liked and respected. The woman shrugged and agreed with her but told Kim to put on her big-girl pants and be a bigger person than the doctor.
At some point Grace stopped being the Grace Kim joined. They started setting up satellite sites inside of different hospitals. The team split up. One speech therapist was here one there. The hospital was no longer a community hospital where everyone worked together. It was now more of a corporation. The patients were different. The care was different.
Soon Kim was covering more than one site and traveling between them. She wasn’t doing the therapy she’d done before. She didn’t have the relationships with the people she had before.
She still loved the people on the rehab team.
Over time people came, people went.
“Ask them to find you a job,” I urged. “You need to leave there.”
“I will,” she said.
“No,” I said, “this time it’s different. Look at their cuts. They may not be able to stay in business.”
“I will,” she said.
I asked her why she stayed.
“No other place would let me take the time off I take to travel with you.”
That was true until it wasn’t. One day they gave her a hard time about traveling. So she didn’t. Then they fired her after twenty years with no warning. Then they hired her back.
But that’s another story.
This story is about her staying there for twenty years because she loved the work and cared about the patients.
Because she loved the people on the rehab team.