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Another Speechie Movie!

November 2, 2012

I am really beginning to think that us Speechies are able to find speech connections to our field in everything we see and watch! Case in point, during my most recent film screening Netflix adventure, I came across a movie that I had seen on TV a long time ago. The movie was called “The Brooke Ellison Story“, and chronicled the true story of 11 year old Brooke Ellison and her life as a quadriplegic after being hit by a car while walking home from school. This movie came back to me at a perfect time, as we were just getting to the TBI section of one of our classes. Rather than focusing only on the injury Brooke sustained, the movie also included many other aspects that we have been learning about, and depicted the role that hope plays in situations such as this.

Due to her injury, Brooke was left unable to breath on her own, which meant she needed a tracheostomy tube hooked up to a ventilator machine that would breath for her. She retained her ability to talk naturally through her vocal folds in the same way Christopher Reeve was able to, by timing speech in rhythm with the ventilator, speaking when the ventilator was not pushing air into the lungs. Initially, Brooke had a cuff in her trachea that blocked air from exiting via her mouth, which was deflated by a physician to allow air to flow to the vocal folds, a topic we had just covered in our dysphagia class!

The topic of hope has been an area discussed at length by many of our guest speakers, and this movie was a great illustration of the importance of hope for families affected by serious situations such as getting hit by a car, and how professionals in the field can sometimes be less than sensitive. Brooke’s mother and father struggled through the uncertainty of not knowing whether their daughter would live or die from her injuries, but also had to deal with their doctors and nurses constantly trying to take away their hope, by telling them their daughter would have brain damage and might not make it. Even when Brooke had come out of her coma, and wanted to know when she could go back to school, her nurses kept hitting her with the fact that she was a quadriplegic and would never again be normal enough to go to school.

A thought I had throughout the whole movie was that the Ellisons would be the perfect clients. Not once did they give up hope or stop fighting the school and insurance companies to get Brooke back into school and get the money they needed for Brooke’s care. Jean Ellison, Brooke’s mother, took it upon herself to get trained in how to care for Brooke every hour of the day, and even moved with her to Harvard when she was accepted into the prestigious school. Not once did her parents stop advocating for their daughter, which is a kind of strength and bravery that we all hope to see in the clients we will work with in the future.

The Brooke Ellison Story is a great movie for aspiring clinicians. Not only does it teach about spinal cord injury, life with a traumatic injury, and the modifications that can be made to give the person the ability to participate in every day activities such as school, it also touches on the most important aspect of our careers; that of hope and importance of instilling it in our clients as they face whatever it is that is happening in their life.

Brooke Ellison’s mother Jean wrote a book, The Brooke Ellison Story, which was made into a film by Christopher Reeve.  I highly recommend checking it out to add a little dash of inspiration to your day!

– Adele Courchesne

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