It was worth all the stress, hurt and worry Sue Kirk had experienced since becoming her son Jim’s caregiver when she received a warm hug from him and heard him say he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.
Sue left her career in the medical industry in 2007 to become Jim’s sole caregiver. He was in Iraq during his sixth tour when he sustained a traumatic brain injury and PTSD from an IED incident. Since Jim’s return home, Sue helps him manage feelings of depression and guilt, and the pain from his injuries. On bad days, she struggles to get him to attend appointments or do anything at all.
From her experiences interfacing with the medical profession, Sue feels strongly that health care providers need to recognize and accept caregivers as having a valid voice in the care of their loved ones.
She is concerned that many caregivers aren’t getting the opportunity to play a full role in their loved one’s medical journey, and knows patients aren’t always able to accurately convey information from their doctors’ visits that could be critical to their care.
Through the years, Sue has learned it takes compassion to see beyond hurtful behaviors and must remind herself that these outbursts are caused by the injury and not the person. In her small community, however, she feels that people don’t understand PTSD and tend to keep their distance.
While she has found it challenging to keep strong ties to community groups, Sue finds great value in having a community of caregivers, both to discuss her own needs and work toward a world that understands and addresses their concerns.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, she hopes to help people learn what life is like with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and help them understand that caregivers need a support system as well.
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