Carolyn was born hard of hearing and developed a conductive hearing loss which is a hearing loss where the ears ability to conduct sound into the inner ear is blocked or reduced. Carolyn went through a lot in her first years of life to where her doctors said she would never walk and that she would never cognitively develop the rest of her life. Carolyn underwent two surgeries at the age of three and she started to gain hearing in her left ear. Carolyn was a strong girl who knew she had a purpose in life and wanted to defeat all odds. She became a master of reading lips by the age of three.
To this day, Carolyn who is now 46 years old, is deaf in her right ear and hard of hearing in her left ear. She has chronic pain issues, arthritis and fibromyalgia, making it difficult for her to complete household tasks. In 2009, Carolyn was going through a rough time and she wasn’t able to walk. A friend suggested that she reach out to her Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to apply for services. Not even two weeks later, Carolyn became a member of Lakeland Care. Carolyn was scared and didn’t know what to expect when she applied for services. She was suffering both mentally and physically at the time.
Carolyn was assigned to her care team and she connected instantly with Kathy her care manager. Kathy was a perfect match for Carolyn and knew exactly what Carolyn needed. Carolyn struggles with developing trust in others so it was hard when she was assigned Jenna as her nurse.
In Carolyn’s first couple of years with Lakeland Care she struggled through so much with physical problems and disabilities that she found it difficult to manage her own life. She was unable to walk independently, was on a lot of medications and because of her undiagnosed mental health conditions along with her physical disabilities, she isolated herself at home. Carolyn’s care team made a point to call her often to see how she was doing. Carolyn said, “hearing Kathy’s voice would relieve the stress I was always feeling inside and take away the pain for a while. Kathy always made sure I had what I needed to function through each day.”
Taking medications was a never a strong point for Carolyn and something she adamantly resisted as much as she possibly could. Even when she wasn’t consciously resisting, she had a hard time remembering to take her medications. Jenna worked with Carolyn for a very long time and was able to help her to become successful in taking her medications daily; not just remembering to take them, but also being willing to take them.
Carolyn’s physical health began to take a turn for the better and with each new step she knew Kathy and Jenna were there the entire way supporting her. Carolyn started college for the first time in her life and though she wasn’t sure where that choice would lead her, she knew she had her care team to help her through, which they continually did in so many ways.
As time went on, Kathy moved on to another position at Lakeland Care and Carolyn was assigned a new care manager, Katie. Carolyn said when she found out about this change, “My world fell out from underneath me. I realized at that time how much Kathy had improved my life and how much trust I had in her. I still remember the feeling of the first visit with Katie and Jenna after I was re-assigned, I wanted to cry and I felt so lost.”
Not long after all the care team changes happened, Carolyn’s personal life also had many changes. She was currently living with her brother and his family while she was going to school. She stayed in the dorms several nights a week and struggled with her relationships with her dorm mates. Changes continued to develop. Carolyn’s physical problems that had become manageable in her life were now causing problems again. She struggled to function, was in pain, stressed with school and was lonely without her nephew by her side. Carolyn decided to isolate herself in her dorm room. This is when her mental struggles that had been undiagnosed for so long hit her full force and she began to fall apart.
Carolyn said, “I decided life wasn’t worth living and when I made that determination I gave up, on me and on life. I sat in the bathroom of my dorm room one night and tried to cut my wrist. Fortunately, though at the time I felt it was unfortunate, trying to cut my wrist hurt and I could not follow through. So I went on living and struggling tremendously. I needed a release and my release became self-harm, cutting my arm and wrist over and over again daily.”
After Katie and Jenna went to visit Carolyn to see how she was doing, Carolyn begged to see Kathy again. Shortly after Kathy, Jenna and Katie met with Carolyn. Carolyn said, “I can honestly say, never in my life have I, or will I ever be as blessed as I was that day. That was the day I found out that I mattered and that people cared. Kathy, Jenna and Katie gave up two hours of their day that day just to sit and talk with me, to help me. Kathy talked about things that we experienced in the past when she was my care manager and I was shocked that she would remember some of the things she did. That alone told me, I wasn’t just a client, I wasn’t just their job, I am a person they genuinely cared about. Kathy told me that day, I could trust Katie and Jenna and because I trusted Kathy so much, I believed her. After the visit with Kathy I was able to move on and begin the process of trusting my care team. I was still in a very bad place physically and mentally for many other reasons; I didn’t believe life was worth living and I still wanted to die. I was extremely unstable and my care team knew that. They tried for a very long time to convince me to go to therapy, however, I was so untrusting of others I could not take that step.”
Jenna and Katie visited Carolyn weekly. They listened to Carolyn each week as she cried, told them her struggles, and continued to try to find a reason to make it through each day. Katie and Jenna listened the entire time with an understanding ear, never judging her while continuing to encourage her to go to therapy. It took a year, but finally Carolyn decided it was time to set-up appointments with a psychiatrist and psychologist in behavioral health. Katie and Jenna went to each appointment with Carolyn until she was ready to go on her own. Carolyn said, “Because they did that for me, I was able to develop trust with my counselor, and we have and are successfully working through many of the struggles in my life. And, I have not cut myself or participated in any self-harm for over a year now.” Carolyn was diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder. While Carolyn admits that like all of us, she has her good days and her bad days, she no longer has a desire to self-harm.
Carolyn said, “Through Lakeland Care I am provided with an abundance of resources and options for care that are beneficial to me in many different aspects of my life. I am provided with ideas, suggestions, and options that I might not be aware of and I am informed of changes so the best decisions can always be made for me and by me. My thoughts, beliefs and desires to lead my own care and life are highly respected. This helps me feel that even though I and others know I need support to be successful, I am independent and respected as an individual. I greatly appreciate the support and services I receive from Katie and Jenna through Lakeland Care. Because of all the support I have received, I recently graduated college with my bachelor’s degree, I have been hired at two great jobs that I truly enjoy, and I have moved into my own place to live independently again for the first time in more than five years. Lakeland Care has saved my life when I didn’t believe it was worth saving and they not only helped me become a productive citizen of the Fond du Lac community, they have instilled in me a desire to continue to work towards a productive, healthy, and positive life.”
Carolyn specializes in deaf and blind children, working with deaf children and their families to help them learn sign language and provide respite. She took classes to learn braille to help blind children read. Carolyn would like to further her education and become specialized as a Credentialed Intervener. Long term, Carolyn would also like to become a foster parent. She knows she can’t be beneficial to a child if she can’t take care of herself and that motivates her to be successful. Carolyn has a desire to be as independent as she can be and works hard to do as much for herself as possible.