April 5, 2011 People

Inpatient Experience Inspires Professional Work

SLP Sharon Bingaman

SLP Sharon Bingaman uses her experience recovering from a focal seizure and craniotomy to connect with her patients.

It was the Sunday after Christmas in 2009 and my two adult sons were home for the holidays. I was on vacation from my job as a medical speech-language pathologist, scheduled to return to work on Jan. 4, 2010. As I was sitting at my home computer, my vision became blurry, my right arm and leg began to shake, and I fell onto the floor. I could hear and see my husband speaking to me while he called emergency medical services, but I could not respond to him.

As a result of several medical tests conducted after I was admitted to the hospital, the doctors concluded that I had had a focal seizure secondary to a four-centimeter left frontal meningioma and I would have to have a craniotomy. The doctors were 99% sure that the tumor was benign, but I knew that I could have right hemiplegia and right facial droop as well as speech and cognitive-linguistic deficits and dysphagia.

I underwent surgery on Jan. 5, 2010, and when I woke up, the weakness in my right arm, leg, and face was gone. I also could think, speak, and swallow water. Still, the recovery process was long and hard. I was experiencing the pain, fatigue, and dependence that my patients described to me during their speech-language sessions. Sometimes, hospital inpatients would complain of difficulty focusing on treatment tasks because of their pain and fatigue. I would tell them that recovery could be a slow process, but to try not to get frustrated because they were  getting better every day. I had to remember my own advice.

When I returned to work full time after 15 weeks, I was nervous and excited, but felt like I was prepared to provide speech-language services again. Working with patients was even more special to me because I could now understand their fatigue, dependence, and pain.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to my husband (my exceptional caregiver); the surgical team; and to my family, friends, and coworkers. These people relieved my pain, improved my endurance, and brought me back to my independent life.   

Sharon Bingaman, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist at Ephrata (Pa.) Community Hospital. Contact her at mombing@ptd.net.

cite as: Bingaman, S. (2011, April 05). Inpatient Experience Inspires Professional Work. The ASHA Leader.


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