Jessie has worked in the field of occupational therapy for 11 years and during that time discovered her passion is in brain injury rehabilitation. She took the opportunity to become an Admissions Coordinator at Progressive Rehabilitation Associates to help people get the care and services they need to re-enter the community and be able to live life to their fullest. Her clinical interests range from improving day to day activities, assist with work modifications, upper extremity function, cognitive rehab, but she has extra interest in driving rehabilitation and vision rehab. It is always an exciting opportunity when she gets to come out from behind her desk to help people from and OT perspective in the gym. Rehab should not be confined within a clinics walls, and with more people becoming vaccinated she is eager to help Progressive Rehabilitation Associates return to expanding our daily services to different environments to help people achieve their goals.
When she is not at work she enjoys getting outdoors, especially to the coast, volunteering with Rabbit Advocates (a non-profit domestic rabbit rescue organization) , and working on her art projects.
Learn more about Jessie and the programs she works as an Admissions Coordinator for by visiting the Programs page.
Recent months have highlighted pronounced racial injustice, sexual orientation discrimination, sexism, intersectionality discrimination, and prejudices against disabilities in our country. Although these problems are not new, they continue to be the source of distrust, pain and inequality that can divide us and has at times led to violence. As a clinical institution, together with the support of our providers and staff I want us to take a firm stance in favor of equity, diversity and inclusiveness.
First of all, I want to thank you for your continued commitments to support our clients and employees with the many issues related to oppression. I want to continue our efforts to build a welcoming environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) for people of all races and color, for people of all sexual orientations, for people who identify of any gender including non-binary, and people of all ages, disabilities, and varying levels of function. As a rehabilitation center for acquired brain injury and chronic pain, we are a voice and a model for acceptance. As we move forward, we are developing a plan and we welcome your input on our DE&I efforts.
Embrace opportunities to educate ourselves to match the diversity of the populations we aim to serve
How we choose to broaden our understanding of others greatly impacts the work we provide. Therapy is built on alliances and it is our job to be allies. By our efforts and continued education, we will focus on creating changes to effectively support the needs of underserved groups. We will also support our providers and staff by creating safe working environments.
Create Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leadership team
Within the year of 2021, I invite our teams dedicated to addressing DE&I within PRA and within each of our Strategic Councils. The mission should be to identify areas of growth within DE&I to propose changes at PRA to leadership. This can include but is not limited to education initiatives, policy changes, form changes, discrimination awareness, and outreach.
Dedicate our efforts to anti-discrimination efforts beyond PRA
As stated before, we are a voice and a model for the Portland community in acquired brain injury and chronic pain rehabilitation. Our efforts internally can make ripples in our community. This open letter is an early effort to create a larger plan to increase our commitment to social justice within PRA, our Portland community, and the Pain and Brain Injury Communities at large. The people we serve in our community often face injustice, and we stand for equity.
As providers and staff of PRA, we have an obligation to the underserved and marginalized populations of our community, including the therapeutic services we offer. As members and allies of marginalized populations, we can take a stance in support of equity within diversity. I want to welcome all ideas, inspirations, and opportunities that will increase our efforts to create a welcoming environment for all who enter our space. Thank you.
I appreciate each and every one of you for your commitments, in and outside PRA. You do not go unnoticed.
I’ve worked as a health care practitioner and administrator for 40 years. Throughout my career I’ve always been motivated by my personal belief that every person has the right to live a healthy life, regardless of their income level, race, religion, gender preference and where they live. I approach every action and decision with this in mind as I fulfill my professional role. Sometimes it’s very challenging but when it is I am all the more fulfilled when I learn different ways to deliver on my belief. In 2004 I received a diagnosis of Acoustic Neuroma, a benign tumor in my brain, and embarked on a 45 days of radiation therapy in 45 days. I continue to manage permanent compromised function on my balance, sense of smell, taste and a loss of hearing on my right side. This experience helps me connect to the mission of the work we do at PRA in a very personal way. I’m thankful for that opportunity.
I love my work. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I’m moved every day I come to work and see our staff give so much of themselves and the clients who do the same in their journey to achieving their best quality of life given the limits of their injuries. I look forward to coming to work every to see what magic will happen on any given day.
I am a 6th generation Oregonian and my paternal Ancestor is known as the man who lost the coin flip for what to name Portland, Oregon. He wanted to name it Boston. He has a street named after him in Northwest Portland. I like most of us who live in the Northwest, love the outdoors and I spend a lot of time taking photos of our incredible landscapes. I also bike, walk and swim for fitness and to keep my focus on always improving my functional balance. I’ve been married for almost 40 years and have 4 adult children and one grandchild, so far.
Learn more about Chris and the programs he manages by visiting the Programs page.
In 2014, Jack had just graduated high school when his entire life changed. He was a good student; “I almost failed my pottery class” he jokes, but it all worked out. He graduated on time, with a full ride scholarship to Central Oregon Community College.
Two days after he graduated, he headed off to Prineville, Oregon and started working. He was living his dream, driving an ambulance and a fire truck for Crook County Fire Department, and he had just accepted a job at Posada Ranch.
In his home town of Battle Ground, Washington, he had out of town family coming for a visit. He left work for the four hour drive home, simply excited to reconnect and share what he had been up to. As he was driving, his senses went into high alert. A lifted truck was coming toward him in the slow lane. Instantly, he veered into the center lane to try to avoid collision, but it was not enough. The vehicles collided, and while Jack has no memory of the event, the photos and stories of the witnesses have recreated the scene in his mind. Yet, when he tells this story, all he can see are the blessings. Two men from the national guard were driving behind the truck that veered into his lane, and provided medical stabilization until help arrived. A medic was on duty in the nearby town, and Jack was intubated on scene. Lifeflight was called, and a coma was induced. He woke up five days later with a multitude of injuries including his Traumatic Brain Injury. Even sharing this story, Jack states “There were lots of miracles that happened.” He reflected on the people who were there by happenstance, that dark and lonely night, that saved his life.
Jack began a rehabilitation journey that was to last years. The first two months, he was in hospitals and rehab facilities. When he got home, he remembers being able to “sleep, professionally.” The brain needs an incredible amount of sleep during the healing process, and Jack so clearly remembers how much he needed his sleep. With a touch of nostalgia, he also talks about the memory of feeling like he was missing out. All of his friends were in college, and he was relearning to walk. “I felt trapped in my body.” He struggled to communicate, and he had memories of being able to do physically active things, but at that time, was unable to. He describes this as a “dream state”. “I just wanted to wake up.”
He was attending rehab in the community, and heard about Progressive Rehabilitation Associates (PRA). Through another course of events that he describes as miracles, he was able to attended PRA’s Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Program. For months, he was a source of inspiration for staff and clients alike, focused on his recovery, dreaming of a time when he would return to fire fighting. He describes treatment at PRA as “outside the box and patient focused.
We would do ‘brain train’, which was super exhausting. He remembers his speech therapist putting him on a treadmill while asking him math questions. In the moment, this was a challenge, but he started to feel glimmers of hope that he could multitask again. He remembers Chris Follmar, PTA dreaming up an exercise for Jack’s Bike Ride. Chris asked Jack to come back and tell him the last name of the tallest headstone he could see. He thought “that sneaky guy, I’m trying to balance and focus on where I’m going and the whole time I’m also trying to remember “last name, tall headstone”. He also remembers a partner activity where he and his partner could see a lego set that Jack himself couldn’t see - they each had to tell each other how to put the legos together without seeing the legos, while engaging in a physical activity. Jack now sees how each of these creative activities contributed to his recovery. He describes being at Progressive Rehabilitation Associates like “being a full time job. It increased my endurance for being a real person.”
Jack still uses the strategies he learned at PRA. The most notable strategy he uses is writing things down. “A dull pencil is better than the sharpest memory” Jack jokes. “I write things down, if I don’t write it down, it will never happen.” He uses his phone for alerts, calendars, etc, which his OT and Speech therapist helped him learn at PRA.
Since his time at PRA, he went back to school to get his EMT, and recertified just a couple days ago. He works at Veterans Affairs as a Nursing assistant, and volunteers as a fire fighter. He also teaches at his local fire stations Fire Cadet Program, which was the program he completed in high school that inspired him to become a fire fighter. Jack also teaches at Trauma Nurses Talk Tough and volunteers at BIC-NW.
When he’s not working, he also coaches rugby, he does yoga, goes on runs, and just became a funcle (a “fun uncle”). He has been back to New Zealand to visit family. He started a recreational group at church for people with disabilities. He also enjoys “painting with Bob Ross.” He has a rich and diverse social life. He says “One of my best buddies also has a TBI. we have the best time making jokes about our memory. “How that burger? It’s the best burger I can remember!”
Jack reports a year ago, he moved out of his parents home, taking the final step toward his independence. He is thinking about applying for an occupational therapy assistant program in a year or so. Jack’s excellent sense of humor, deep compassion, and never ending gratitude will be a gift to all he serves.
If you have been struggling with post concussive symptoms, there is help. Reach out to us at https://www.progrehab.com/ for more information about our comprehensive interdisciplinary program and how we can be of service to you.
As a speech-language pathologist, Devon is passionate about cognitive rehabilitation. She has a special interest and strong background in supporting young adults with brain injury ability to return to work and/or college by simulating the cognitive demands involved. She works to help client’s build “metacognition,” an awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process, to support brain injury survivors' understanding of their strengths and learning compensation strategies to get around challenges.
After moving cross country to Portland from New Jersey, Devon landed at PRA bringing an enthusiasm for individualized and collaborative treatment.
In her free time, you can find Devon embracing van life traveling the PNW with her family and 2 feisty pups.
Learn more about Devon and her work in the Comprehensive Brain Injury Program (also known as the Brain Injury Rehab Center)
Emotions can be heightened after TBI, surprising both the survivor and their family. Often there is no specific event that causes the feeling, or the emotion the survivor experiences feels out of proportion to what has happened! This can be confusing to everyone involved, but strategies can help.
Set a Healthy Baseline
Emotions are often stored in our body, so our first strategy is preventing buildup of big emotions. Getting adequate sleep, which might be a different amount that before your injury, is your first line of defense. Eating small amounts through the day can regulate blood sugar, which can help regulate emotional responses. Drinking plenty of water can improve your baseline mood as well!
Emotions often get stored in our body, so finding ways that you can exercise with your post TBI body can help with emotions. Having a daily movement and stretch routine can be vital for good emotional health.
Developing a relaxation practice can help. Some people find meditation helpful, and others prefer to integrate mindfulness into their movement. Our resources page has many options for you to explore.
Track your Emotions
Keep a log of the intense emotions you experience. Note the time of day, how much you slept the night before, how recently you have eaten, and the situation that sparked the emotion. Tracking may help you discover patterns that you can work to change. For example, if the emotions are more intense when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, perhaps revisiting your sleep routine will be helpful, however if you find that you have intense emotions after significant stimulation, perhaps sunglasses and earplugs will help.
Notice the Emotion Coming On
Once you start to feel the emotion, it can be helpful to remove yourself from the situation. When we are experiencing an intense emotion, the logical part of our brain is deactivated, and the irrational part of our brain is activated, which can lead to some behaviors that don’t help us in the long run. Go to a quiet place, take a walk, listen to music, or take a rest break - whichever seems to be the most calming for you.
After the Emotion
Whether the distressing emotion is tears, anger, anxiety, or excessive joy, after an emotional outburst people sometimes feel embarrassed by their reaction. This is an important time for self compassion. When we speak with kindness and understanding to ourselves, we create the learning mindset needed to make progress on these challenges. We can remind ourselves that our brains are different now, and we are working hard to develop new strategies to manage that changes in our life.
Surround yourself with understanding. Find a team of therapists who understand brain injury and can help you develop the skills needed to manage these new and intense emotions. At Progressive Rehabilitation Associates, we specialize in helping individuals who have experienced brain injury overcome these challenges and build a meaningful life. Find local community of people who have experienced something similar to what you have gone through. We are lucky here in the northwest to have a dedicated community of individuals who are thriving with brain injury at Brain Injury Connections Northwest. We love collaborating with BIC-NW, so keep an eye out for our upcoming presentations at their support group meetings.
A Special Note to Family and Friends
This is a challenging time for you. Not only is your loved one trying to understand and manage their new emotions, you are experiencing them in a whole new way. If possible, remind yourself that these changes are not personal. Take time for yourself, and find others who are also caring for loved ones with brain injury. Set safety boundaries during calm times: no yelling, no threatening, no physical violence, and work with your loved one on small cues you can offer if you see their emotions start to heighten. Remind yourself that healing takes time, and this is a journey.
Chris has been known to add a creative and energizing treatment style to each client’s rehab process for over 10 years. Never one to get stuck in a rut, Chris understands the need for a dynamic and personalized approach to finding function and wellness after an injury. “Each person that walks through these doors, whether for pain or brain injury, has a different story, a different set of experiences, and a unique injury. The nature of this interdisciplinary team approach allows for the development of a fine-tuned program for each individual.” Chris’ experiences as an adventure director, an educator, and general outside-the-box thinker often fuel an exciting approach to many people's rehab process.
Want to learn more about Chris and the creative work he does at PRA? Visit the Comprehensive Brain Injury Program (Brain Injury Rehab Center) and Comprehensive Pain Program page!