The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast Full Transcript
Mattie Murrey 00:04
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. I’m Mattie, your host, speaker, and very passionate speech language pathology advocate. You are listening to The Speechless SLP series with Vanessa Abraham, and you get a unique perspective in each one of these episodes on her journey being the speechless SLP in the ICU bed, unable to talk. So, welcome to this series of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. Glad you are here. Sit back, take a listen.
This is our final, for now, Speechless SLP episode. We have with us Vanessa Abraham, who's been so generous with her time, her heart, and her honesty as we've just told story after story of what it's been like to be the Speechless SLP. Welcome, Vanessa.
Vanessa Abraham 00:54
Thanks for having me back.
Mattie Murrey 00:55
This is our last episode together. It's been wonderful.
Vanessa Abraham 00:58
I know. It's bittersweet.
Mattie Murrey 01:00
Vanessa Abraham 01:01
But it's been a good journey for me,
Mattie Murrey 01:03
Good. Me as well. I love learning new things and your perspective has just been so incredible, and so valuable.
Today, we're going to talk about you moving forward, and where you are now. So, we're not going to be talking so much – and all of this is going to be coming out in a book. So, if anybody wants to go back, when your book comes out, they can go back and read all the details about what happened to you in the past. And today, we're going to start talking about where you are now, and where you're going to be going forward.
Vanessa Abraham 01:38
Well, I’m back to work. I started back right at the onset of COVID. So, it was kind of an interesting transition period there, going back into a virtual world. I will say in some respects it was easier, because I could work from home. I didn't have to get up and go out as I previously had to. Most of us were in our pajamas from our waist down! So, that’s just a fact! So, in some respects it was easier, but in some respects it was a whole new learning curve for me. But life is definitely on the upward swing right now.
Mattie Murrey 02:13
Excellent. So, you're back working as a school-based SLP, back to being a wife, and a mother, and a daughter.
Vanessa Abraham 02:20
Mattie Murrey 02:20
Would you say you're 100 percent back?
Vanessa Abraham 02:23
No, it's hard for me to put a percentage on it, because in some respects, yeah, I am 100 percent. In some respects, hmm, I’m not quite there. So, it's really hard when people ask that question for me. It's like, well, it's hard to quantify it.
Mattie Murrey 02:36
It's a true SLP though, question – 90 percent accuracy, right?
Vanessa Abraham 02:41
Mattie Murrey 02:41
Over three consecutive sessions.
Vanessa Abraham 02:42
Yes. Well, and some people would say it was on all of my things, because you can [crosstalk]. And so, do you know what I mean? You can do all your ADLs, so you exit it. . But in the patient's mind, you're thinking, “Oh, but I used to do this, and I used to do that”.
Mattie Murrey 02:58
Vanessa Abraham 02:58
But yeah, you're right. And SLP, we're all in medical terms and even school-based. “Oh, you know what, you can brush your teeth. You can shower yourself”. Okay, exit. You’re dismissed.
Mattie Murrey 03:10
So, what areas – so, you're not 100 percent in some areas, which is – thank you for the honesty in that, and not painting this rosy, rosy picture of “Yep, everything's fine”. How are you doing, trying to fit into a world as a mom with speech and swallowing and physical disabilities, and where are you with those challenges that you still have to overcome?
Vanessa Abraham 03:31
I think overall it's still a hard process. I have to give myself a lot of grace and constantly remind myself that it's okay. It's okay that if I just want to stay home today, and we're just going to watch movies, and we’re not going to do XYZ, we're just going to rest today. It’s not an easy one for me to accept, but I have to constantly remind myself that it's okay. There are still a lot of factors that are hard. The fatigue is definitely one of them. There's still a lot of areas that I struggle with. Is the healing phase over? Not at all. I recently started a new therapy, which has been really remarkable for me. So, it's just a continual process, and it's not over.
Mattie Murrey 04:21
So, what current therapies are you still in?
Vanessa Abraham 04:25
The one that I’m doing, it's kind of like electrical stimulation.
Mattie Murrey 04:30
Vanessa Abraham 04:29
And then, I'm still doing some infusions here and there.
Mattie Murrey 04:34
Vanessa Abraham 04:33
So, there's still a lot of things that I am doing, so the game is not over. It's a process, it really is. It’s just reminding yourself, and most patients too, it’s just giving yourself grace and just never ever giving up.
Mattie Murrey 04:48
And I know you don't give up, because I know that you go do medical SLP CEUs to learn more, understand, and implement. Tell us about that.
Vanessa Abraham 04:58
Yeah. Just curiosity gets me sometimes, and I think, “Wow, I had that. I want to learn more about it now”. Because as a school-based SLP, I don't deal with vocal cord issues, and swallowing, [DDFMs 05:13], all of that stuff. So, yeah. I'll see CEU courses offered, and I'll think, “Wow, I want to learn more about that”. And I actually have learned some techniques and tried them on myself, and they’ve worked.
Mattie Murrey 05:25
And that's how I do a lot of my recovery work from my life struggles that I've had. I'll be introduced to a topic, and then I'll go learn more and more and more.
So, what words of wisdom do you have for the SLP who either herself wants to go and learn more, where do you find those resources?
Vanessa Abraham 05:44
Oh, speechpathology.com is a big one that I've gone to. You can get, I think, $100 or something for unlimited CEUs during the year. And I'll just go down there, and toggle through, and think, “Okay, I want to go learn something about voice. I want to learn something about swallow”, and I'll just go in there and I'll look at the titles of the courses. And there was one, gosh, probably a year or two ago that I said, “Oh, this is me. This is what I had”. So, I signed up for it. And they're an hour. They're easy listening. They're well put together. And yeah, there's a lot of courses out there, but speechpathology.com has been a great one for me.
Mattie Murrey 06:23
I like the speechpathology.com. The Med SLP is a good one.
Vanessa Abraham 06:24
Speechtherapy.com, that one is another good one that I’ve – now that you say that. Yeah, it’s been a good one for me too.
Mattie Murrey 06:30
Vanessa Abraham 06:32
But I'm more intrigued and fascinated by those classes, than the language and arctic ones that I would do for school-based, just because I can relate to them now.
Mattie Murrey 06:40
Vanessa Abraham 06:40
Or I can take these courses, and say, that was what I –
Mattie Murrey 06:42
I bet you can!
Vanessa Abraham 06:43
I know how that feels. I’ve lived that. I can feel it, taste it, breathe it, everything.
Mattie Murrey 06:50
Vanessa Abraham 06:50
[crosstalk] the experience. So, it's more interesting for me now.
Mattie Murrey 06:54
So, I have an interesting question. I was going to wait until the end, but I think I'm going to ask it now. I do a lot of coaching with SLPs who are transitioning, either in their career somewhere, or outside of their career. And there are so many SLPs who are moving into the copywriting area, where they're creating materials, or they’re copywriting for websites.
So, for the SLP who's creating cognitive comm materials for a person just like you, what advice would you give them?
Vanessa Abraham 07:29
Hmm. Visuals. Anything that they could produce that would be informational for patients. Like a little booklet for families that had descriptions of the medical terms. What is a speech pathologist? First of all, what do we work on? So, I think if they could design materials with visuals, of what a trachea is, what [Causton 08:00], and deflated, and all of those terms mean. Like I said before, me even being an SLP, I was completely confused and lost.
Mattie Murrey 08:09
Vanessa Abraham 08:09
I didn’t know what was going on, and why they were cutting into me, what all of this was for.
Mattie Murrey 08:14
Vanessa Abraham 08:14
And I think if they just had like a very simple little booklet that they could get into hospitals somehow, that just a description of procedures, and machines. I think Anna, our PICS Counselor that was on the show previously, talked about the ICU diary, and their diary that they created at her hospital that had all sorts of diagrams and information. I think anything like that for patients in the hospital setting, like myself, would be very helpful.
Mattie Murrey 08:48
So, researching natural healing remedies to heal from neurological injuries, that's one of our questions. There was a missing link in your recovery you identified. Can you talk more about that?
Vanessa Abraham 09:03
The missing link – I think overall, just one of the things that I've learned is that your body needs a lot of natural remedies. For me, a lot of the medications that I was given for sleep, for depression, for anxiety, for the vocal cords – gosh, what else was I given? For muscle pain relievers. All have some horrendous side effects that would wind me up feeling worse in other areas.
Mattie Murrey 09:33
Vanessa Abraham 09:34
So, for me, it was like I really needed to research alternative methods to healing, because this pain reliever is making me nauseous. Well, I was already nauseous feeling before, so it's just compounding my nausea, and that's not working for me. Or this anti depression medication is causing me to not feel anything. Well, I feel like we naturally need to feel things. We need to be okay with crying, and releasing ourselves, and releasing that emotion and crying is healing.
Mattie Murrey 10:08
Vanessa Abraham 10:07
I found antidepressant medications were causing me to not cry, or not feel anything. And I thought, well, that's counterproductive to healing. I needed to be able to cry to heal, to move past this.
So, just getting off all the medications that the doctors gave me was huge for me. I just – all of them – everything. I had so many medications, that I just one-by-one thought this is not helping me, it's making me feel this. And just pursuing a more natural route, and giving my body the resources it needed in a natural form. IV infusion with just vitamins. I do a lot of cranial sacral therapy. That was really helpful for me. No side effects. I don't walk out of there feeling worse off, by any means. It's one of those therapies, or those techniques, that you may not feel anything but the worst that can happen is you feel better. So, to me, that's a win win. I don't want something that's going to set me back, and that was one that always felt like I was moving forward. More food choices, and eating healthy. Eating the mixture of proteins. Your body needs a lot of high protein when healing. So, there's just a lot of alternative things that I learned in the process.
Mattie Murrey 11:21
Did you like make a list? How did you manage all of that? Make a list and then – I tend to be really like left brain. I would make a list of here are my problems, and here are the options, here the resources. How did you do it?
Vanessa Abraham 11:33
Well, it was trial and error, honestly. I would try one thing for a period of time, and realize, well, that's not working. And I'm actually going through that particular phase right now, that I thought, well, I gave that a year –
Mattie Murrey 11:45
Vanessa Abraham 11:45
– and a whole lot of money, and did it really do a whole lot for me? No, which makes me sick, but at least I tried it.
Mattie Murrey 11:52
Vanessa Abraham 11:53
And that's what I would do. I'd give something a try, and give it a few months, three, four or five months, six months, and realize, okay, I feel significantly better, or I don't feel better. And if I don't, I drop that idea and move on to the next. But it's really hard, because sometimes you want to like throw everything at the wall, but you’ve got to do one thing at a time and see if that works.
Mattie Murrey 12:13
Vanessa Abraham 12:13
If that doesn't work, throw whatever you can at the wall and see what sticks. And, for me, cranial sacral therapy helped a lot. The neuromuscular stimulation, and other IVs, and different natural things that are ones. And time –
Mattie Murrey 12:27
Vanessa Abraham 12:27
– I can’t discount that. Time – your body just naturally goes through that whole healing process.
Mattie Murrey 12:32
Yeah, and it takes time. I know after my motorcycle accident, when I did not have a concussion, it took me what? Two years to feel like I was back to, maybe, baseline where I was. I mean, I was so close for so long, but it wasn't until that two year mark, I'm like, “Okay, yep, I'm ready”.
Vanessa Abraham 12:50
Mattie Murrey 12:51
But I think it's also important to pull out, and say that it might not not have worked for – you’ve tried something, you were really able to crack open that Pandora's box, and say here's what's in here and address them. What advice do you have for people who haven't cracked open that Pandora's box yet because they're afraid of what's in there? What advice do you have for them?
Vanessa Abraham 13:13
Try it. Maybe my advice would be to try one thing at a time. Don't try it all.
Mattie Murrey 13:18
Vanessa Abraham 13:19
Just step out of the box, and just try one thing new. And give yourself that grace of saying I'm going to try this one thing. Don't do a lot and overwhelm yourself, because the healing journey and the critical illness is overwhelming to begin with, just the mere fact of trying to get out of bed and get in the shower is very overwhelming. So, one thing at a time. Don't try to [crosstalk].
Mattie Murrey 13:41
I can relate to this!
Vanessa Abraham 13:44
They told me in rehab, “Rome wasn't built in a day”.
Mattie Murrey 13:49
Vanessa Abraham 13:49
You can’t do 10 things, and it’s over with. So, one thing. Try to do that one thing. Give yourself a couple of months. Just say, “Okay, from June 1 to October or August 1, I'm going to do this, and then I'm going to reassess”. And if it's working, continue it. Great. If not, reassess. Try Plan B. But give yourself time, because I was always one that I was like, “I want this done, and I want this done now”.
Mattie Murrey 14:18
Vanessa Abraham 14:18
And it’s not reality, unfortunately. I wish I had a magic wand, both as a patient and as an SLP. But sometimes you’ve got to just accept. Somehow find a way to accept it and move forward.
Mattie Murrey 14:33
I would also say that – for the SLP listening to this, and you just brought this up, we were asked to do big things. You and I had different recoveries, but recoveries nonetheless. And I remember when I was asked to do something, I was like, “You're kidding me. You want me to do what?”
And so, as the SLP who's asking the patient to do something, really work hard on that trust, and then come in at the level that the patient is at. With yourself, work on trusting yourself. If you're in the later stages of healing, listen to that inner voice and follow that inner voice, like you're talking about, and learn to trust yourself and give yourself grace.
Vanessa Abraham 15:14
Absolutely. I agree with that 100 percent.
Mattie Murrey 15:17
So, PTSDs. Do you have any from your experience?
Vanessa Abraham 15:21
Oh, yes. Yes, many. Many. There’s triggers all around me.
Mattie Murrey 15:26
PTSD triggers? That's right. I didn’t put the word triggers in there.
Vanessa Abraham 15:29
Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s okay. I know exactly what you mean, but they're all around. But one thing I've learned is that with time, the body heals, the mind heals.
Mattie Murrey 15:39
Vanessa Abraham 15:40
I think I've said in previous podcasts, there's been countless hours of mental health therapy, and that helps kind of desensitize some of those triggers. But yeah, they are everywhere. They're all around me.
Mattie Murrey 15:52
What are some of the triggers coming out of ICU?
Vanessa Abraham 15:55
Oh, any medical appointment.
Mattie Murrey 15:58
Vanessa Abraham 15:58
Follow ups – follow ups are big triggers, and I think that's probably with a lot of people. You go into appointments, and you’re just thinking, “Okay, what are they going to find?”
Mattie Murrey 16:06
Vanessa Abraham 16:07
Are they going to want to do another brain scan? Or this time are they going to find a brain tumor identifying cancer? Your brain goes off in some crazy tangents sometimes, and often thinks the worst. Even though we all know that that's usually not what happens, but our brains automatically think the negative. So, that's definitely one.
There's different things at work that are triggers, to be honest. Better Speech and Hearing month is a trigger for me. So, this entire month of May, I could just bypass May. I would love to just bypass May, and all of the Better Speech and Hearing month.
Mattie Murrey 16:42
Why is that?
Vanessa Abraham 16:42
Because I was in a critical state at this time, and everybody was talking about it.
Mattie Murrey 16:45
Mattie Murrey 16:46
And it just brings up all of that memory. So, for me, to just obliterate Better Speech and Hearing month, and maybe put it in November would be awesome.
Mattie Murrey 16:55
Right around the ASHA convention.
Vanessa Abraham 16:57
Yeah. That would be more appropriate. Why do we have to have it in May?! But that’s just me, because I associate this time of year – right now it’s my anniversary season. So, there's a lot of things that are like, “Wow, I remember that”. It brings that memory. It just – they’re all – there are just so many that trigger thoughts, and memories, and anxiety, and my hands start sweating when I see things and go places and –.
Mattie Murrey 17:27
So, you're aware of your biological response to the triggers. You're aware of your mental response. How do you calm that system down when you have a trigger? What works for you?
Vanessa Abraham 17:40
I have to remind myself. It’s constant. And reminding myself of like, for example, doctor appointments. Do I really think that I'm going to come out of this doctor appointment, and they're going to tell me I have a brain tumor or cancer or something life-threatening? No. The reality of that. And, again, I'm just having to constantly remind myself.
Deep breathing. I listen to meditations. I have my earbuds and my phone, and I have a bunch of different apps. Sound soothing techniques, and frequencies, sound frequencies. It all – when moments get – or thoughts get too intense, I will tend to put my earbuds in, and try to just take my thoughts somewhere else.
Exercise has been a big one for me too, especially that first year. I pretty much felt like I was living at the gym. I wouldn't necessarily be working out, but just pacing the floor. Just being out and moving. That whole area of you move a muscle, you change a thought.
Vanessa Abraham 18:46
Vanessa Abraham 18:48
That was really important for me back then, and even today, too. It's like, okay, I'm starting to have a little anxiety, or I'm starting to think certain thoughts, I’m going to get up and move.
Mattie Murrey 18:57
Good. And I've heard you say you no longer feel like you're an impostor anymore.
Vanessa Abraham 19:03
Mattie Murrey 19:02
I know we all don't have to go through the medical crisis you did, so we don't feel like imposters. But why is that?
Vanessa Abraham 19:09
I don't feel like an impostor because I've lived it. I know, like I’ve said before, and I've experienced every sensory component of it. I've tasted secretions. I've used a PMV. I've been a patient with barium swallows. I’ve learned to walk. I have lived it. I know what it's like to be in that bed, where most people haven't been in the bed, and I hope they never are in the bed. But I feel like everything else, as far as an SLP, I can learn. I can learn. I can read a textbook. I can attend amazing CEU courses and go to conventions.
Mattie Murrey 19:46
Vanessa Abraham 19:47
I can learn about everything, but I know what it feels like in the core of my body.
Mattie Murrey 19:54
And that's why we've had this whole podcast series, is you sharing what it’s been like being a speechless SLP. So, you've got a book coming out?
Vanessa Abraham 20:04
Mattie Murrey 20:05
Do you want to tell us about that?
Vanessa Abraham 20:06
Yes. It's about my medical journey. It's about as an SLP, being on the other side, the receiving end of therapy services. And, again, what it's like being an SLP, and what things I didn't learn in grad school, and what I learned out of the journey.
Mattie Murrey 20:23
And so, this series has just been a very small taste of what you've got coming in the book –
Vanessa Abraham 20:28
Mattie Murrey 20:28
– lots more details about your diagnosis, lots more specifics about everything.
Vanessa Abraham 20:34
Yes. What my family went through, the emotional toll, everything. The community that rose up, and the community that left me too.
Mattie Murrey 20:44
Yes. We have some of that in common. When is your book going to be ready?
Vanessa Abraham 20:48
I would love to say 2022. I'm hoping this summer to really be able to dive into it a lot more with school being over. That's really my summer plan is to just sit down. I bought a new laptop, and that's my goal is to just type away the summer. So, that's my goal.
Mattie Murrey 21:07
So, you're pivoting, possibly, from your experiences, from school SLP into branching out into some other areas that are going to be purpose and passion driven for you. Do you want to share any of those with us? Or your thought process on that?
Vanessa Abraham 21:23
Yeah. I don't have a clear picture of what that looks like. One thing is for certain, I don't want anybody to ever feel alone in this journey. I don't know if it's opening a business, or what it really specifically entails. But I want to help the critically ill. I want to help them with the mental side. I want to help them feel hope. I want to help them recover. I don't want to be a medical based SLP, I know that for sure. I think that's just too emotional for me. I think I would be too emotional, and I wouldn't be able to separate.
Mattie Murrey 22:03
Vanessa Abraham 22:03
Like my SLPs in the hospital setting, they were so professional with me. And I don't know if I would be able to do it without totally completely collapsing and being emotional, and it'd be a huge trigger for me too. So, I don't want to be a medical SLP, but I certainly want to help people overcome the trauma, and the mental anxiety that they go through.
Mattie Murrey 22:29
So, you and I are going to work on a project over this summer with vision boarding. That's something I do with the coaching I do. And maybe you'll come back on, in an episode down the road, where we go over where you've come. Maybe come back in a year, and talk about where you are and what you're doing.
Vanessa Abraham 22:45
Yeah. That is actually my goal, is one year from now, I want to –
Mattie Murrey 22:48
There you go.
Vanessa Abraham 22:49
That's my timeline. I want the book out. And then one year from now, hopefully, by next May-June, embarking on something new..
Mattie Murrey 23:02
Well, excellent. Excellent. Vanessa, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your time, your honesty, your vision, and for sharing your story with us.
Vanessa Abraham 23:14
Thank you so much. It's been very therapeutic and healing for me to share my story with others.
Mattie Murrey 23:21
So, go find Vanessa's book, The Speechless SLP, when it comes out. And, yeah, you can find other contact information for her in our show notes. Thanks very much. Giving the Speechless SLP her voice back.
Mattie Murrey 23:39
So, hey, SLPs, that concludes this episode of the Missing Link for SLPs podcast. Please visit my website at fresh slp.com . Follow me on Instagram, or jump on Facebook to connect in our safe and friendly Fresh SLP community where we are empowering new and transitioning SLPs. If you found value in this episode, or in any way had an aha moment, or I gave you a fresh perspective, please show me some SLP love and support me on iTunes or the Apple podcast app or subscribe to me on YouTube.
You got this!