A Health Careers Scholarship Recipient’s Message

My initial healthcare work experience started as a personal care attendant (PCA) at Anderson Parkway Cathedral Square in South Burlington, VT. This was when I first encountered and personally learned about the struggles quadriplegic and paraplegic people have to go through everyday. It never occurred to me what it was like to be physically disabled, and my experience has allowed me to promote a greater awareness of this.

The very first client I met and assisted inspired me in many ways. Andrew’s passion was to teach children after he graduated UVM. Andrew was able to pursue his passion while serving for the PeaceCorps teaching English in Honduras and Costa Rica, but his life changed when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He wasn’t able to complete his PeaceCorp service due to this condition, and had to come back to Vermont. I tried to imagine what it was like to experience something like this happening in my life. With everything happening in that moment, I remember feeling devastated. It was almost like someone pressing a permanent halt button to pursuing all my dreams and passions. I wondered and still wonder if I would be able to continue to pull through.

Andrew did. He persisted and pulled through that time period of his life, and continues to do so. Andrew is now paralyzed from the neck down. He sits in a mobile chair that is attached with a device that is attached from his head rest to about an inch away from both sides of his mouth (shown in the picture). This device allows him to control his mobile chair with his tongue.  His computer, mobile phone, television, and other handy devices have been tweaked with so that he is also able to control them with his tongue and the attached device. He still pursues his passion by training and teaching new PCAs, nurses and RNs. That was one of the reasons why he was my first client. He liked meeting, teaching new employees, and listening to their stories at his residence.

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Andrew also created a daily routine that he strictly follows. Every morning, he reads a  section of his bible, and listens to the radio or a religious podcast. He then has his breakfast, watches national geographic or his favorite sport, baseball. By noon, he goes by the garden or the parking lot to sit and enjoy the weather while he has his lunch. Then he comes back in to use his nebulizer which helps him breathe better, and has his dinner while watching television. At times, his friends and family come to visit him. We talk about his nieces because they are around the same age as me. His friends bring Chinese food or dark chocolate because those are his favorites. From him, I learned to persist through the obstacles I face in life more readily and positively. I know that if he can, I can as well. Overall, I learned many things from this one special individual and I wanted to take the time to dedicate the most prominent experience I had with a patient to him.

Below is a website where you can learn more about him and also listen to him speak:
http://www.vtaffordablehousing.org/voices/andrew-bolognani/

Scholar:  Amy Siu