Shonda Leigh: AHHC’s Nurse Aide of the Year!
As the telephone rang, I pondered what to say to Shonda. I had amazing news, and no one was more deserving. The line clicks, and the moment of truth has arrived. I flash on being nervous at the idea of telling her. Then, I realized I was just as excited as I hoped she would be.
“Hello,” answered the voice on the other end of the line.
“Shonda, it’s Jody. I have amazing news.” I hope I can hold it together to deliver the news. “The Association of Home and Hospice Care just phoned. You have been selected as 2014’s Nurse Aide of the Year – for all of North Carolina!”
There is a short silence, and then the squeal of excitement. “Jody, you have to be kidding me.” I confirm that I am absolutely serious, and we chat about how she is the winner and it is absolutely deserved. The entire experience was surreal.
Shonda Leigh is the type of person to find it hard to believe she is the award recipient. She has so often told me that caring for her son is not work. It’s love. And, she loves T.J.
T.J.’s care is only one thread in the story of a brave young man who faces every day with humor and humility. A harrowing fall at sixteen years old leaves him with a severe spinal cord injury, and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) diagnosis. He requires 24/7 care and supervision.
After the fall, medical experts inform her that he will have to be placed in a nursing facility, and will most likely live only a few years more. Shonda would not accept that her teenager was given a death sentence. And, having worked in a nursing home, she knew his chances of improving were not great if placed in a facility. Realizing his options were few, she takes his care into her hands.
As a mother, she wants no less than the very best for her son. As a professional caregiver, she has to remain vigilant to the updates and advances pertaining to TBI. Because of her selfless care, T.J. is thriving at-home. He has grown over 4 inches in four years, and weighs nearly 200 pounds. He is responsive, and is making great strides towards recovering some of his verbal communication skills. As she plainly states, “I am loving him back to health.”
Shonda has to care for every aspect of T.J.’s life, from suctioning (because he pockets food) to making his bed and transferring him to his power chair. Quite simply, she is superhuman. She cares for a disabled son and a teenage daughter. She has given her son, who was essentially dealt a death sentence, a new lease on life. Her daughter is doing well in school, and excels in the arts. Her son is set to graduate high school this summer.
She is always an activist, but her life has taken on new meaning as a mother caring for a son with TBI. She offers hope and support to others who have children with disabilities, and connects them to education and resources. Somehow, she manages it all.
We, at Personal Care Inc., are so proud of Shonda and T.J. Their bond is unbreakable, and Shonda exemplifies the care and compassion that defines caregiving. From our hearts, congratulations Shonda Leigh.