Caregiver Interview: Maggie McClellan

  • By Springible Contributor
  • Reading Time About 4 minutes
  • PostedApril 12, 2017
  • Category

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Bristol Tennessee has been my home for 28 years now. I am a proud alumnus of East Tennessee University where I earned a BS in Marketing and Public Relations. My life philosophy has always been to “show up,” whether it be a class, a music festival, or a road trip. “Show up” and you will be greeted with opportunities.

These days I show up at the YMCA to work out with my personal trainer, Tim. I work hard to regain my balance with a goal to ditch my wheelchair and walk. I show up at the ETSU Speech Clinic to practice speaking so I sound like I used to, and so the people I see can understand my words. I show up for Occupational Therapy to empower my right arm to cook and bake, so I can enjoy my hobbies and independently care for myself. I show up at the Bridal Shop at the YWCA weekly and volunteer as a receptionist for the gown shopping brides. It’s a job I love doing.

What’s your story? 

On December 4th, 2014 I was battling a headache. That wasn’t unusual; headaches had been a part of my life forever. I pushed through the pain to be in my town’s Christmas parade, but as the night went on, I felt worse so I excused myself and returned home early. I awoke at 2:00 AM the next morning to ringing in my ears. I couldn’t walk well and my balance was off. I phoned my parents and we drove to the emergency room. A CT scan showed my brain was hemorrhaging. A MRI was ordered next and we called the neurosurgeon.

The doctor explained there was not a treatment option locally and recommended a surgeon at UVA Charlottesville, Dr. Kenneth Liu. That was the moment, as my dad said, my adventure began. Dr. Liu accepted my case and I was rushed up I81 in an ambulance. It was Friday night when I arrived. I would have rather been at dinner with friends.

The process began, more scans, tests, questions, and lots of new people in my life. My swallowing had weakened, so I wasn’t allowed water and a feeding tube was inserted down my nose. I was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in the pons region of my brain, something I was born with and had been the cause of my lifelong headaches. Surgery to remove the CM was scheduled for Monday, in my thinking, in two days I’d be better. I’d be fixed! Right? Not exactly.

The surgery was a success but left my brain even angrier; I was paralyzed and required a tracheotomy and a feeding tube into my stomach. I spent 18 days in ICU, another month in a transitional care hospital to wean off the ventilator. I had always been healthy, and now, nothing in my body worked as designed; an adventure, indeed.

I was accepted to Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a leading brain rehabilitation hospital at the end of January and spent the next five months there working hard to relearn eating, speaking, moving, and well, re-learning everything!

Fast forward to the present and I’m living in my own apartment, cooking, continuing therapy and showing up for any opportunity that will take me further in my adventure. My deepest desire is to just be normal, so giving up is not an option. I am not the same as I was. I am stronger, I am more innovative and I am more empathic to others. I’ve learned that there’s always a silver lining, we only have to look for it.

Why do you think the mission of Springible is so important? 

I am so excited about the launch of Springible. It’s a fresh approach to supporting the lives of families with special needs and disabled members. Those of us who have had our lives impacted by disease or injury retain the desire to live a good life; to be productive and to contribute to the common good. In many cases, we will need the support and understanding of a good caregiver, which often falls to a family member to provide. Springible is supporting both roles with the challenges and successes to strengthen our community. I love the broad spectrum of subject platforms because bottom line, all of us want to live to the fullest and be normal; to be Springible.

– Springible Contributor, Maggie McClellan