Believing in a Way Back: Jacquie’s Story

Over the course of my two years at Magee, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many strong and motivated individuals affected by a variety of diagnoses that have changed their lives. While the initial shock of suffering from a life-altering event can be scary and overwhelming, our patients leave Magee with a strong sense of strength, determination, and appreciation for life’s little but important gifts (because we all know they are actually the big gifts). Jacqueline Gilbert is a former Magee patient and current hospital volunteer who knows what overcoming obstacles and working hard is all about. In 2012 Jacquie suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following a car accident. During her stay at Magee, she worked with physical, occupational, and speech therapists daily to improve her strength, self-care, eating, and thinking skills. Today, Jacquie shares her story of hope, courage, and believing in a way back.

0062012 was shaping up to be a great year for me.  I was finishing up my second BA Degree and looking at two different job opportunities. I had my own apartment, a great boyfriend, and a loving pooch named Lady.  I was excited to become a police officer and was looking forward to seeing what the future had in store! Little did I know life had a slightly different plan for me. On May 5, 2012, my world came to a screaming halt (for lack of a better way of putting things).  I found myself waking up at Hershey Medical Center following a horrific car accident where I suffered a number of fractured ribs and a brain injury. After the doctors removed a two inch blood clot from my brain and I was deemed medically stable, I was transferred to Magee for rehab where I had a new life goal: recovering.

After the initial shock of what had happened, the hardest for me was wrapping my mind around what happened. Why me?  At Magee, I worked hard each day at being able to regain the ability to complete simple tasks such as eating, talking, and going to the bathroom on my own. Tasks that were automatic and took very little effort before now consumed my day.  Fortunately, the specialists at Hershey and the rehab team at Magee did a remarkable job in getting me back to the best Jacqueline I could be at this point with the injuries I had sustained.  The therapists did a nice job of personalizing my rehab to the life I was used to. My speech therapist knew I was in the service, so once I was able to, we worked on cognitive tasks to help me read, retain and remember my training information. In physical therapy, I worked to get strong again so that I could stand without assistance and eventually walk. The goal was to get back to work where I would need to run and haul heavy equipment.

While I can go on and on about the recovery process and how it felt to have my life turned around, I will simply tell you it was hard work that required a lot of physical and emotional strength. Every time I felt like I was 25-year-old baby learning basic tasks all over again, I thought of the determined child I once was, the one that wouldn’t accept no for an answer. In time, every “no” and “I can’t do that” turned into, “I can’t do it yet, but I will get there.”. Every challenge that the therapists put in front of me I achieved with courage and grace the same way I once did at basic training.

Living with a traumatic brain injury is sometimes a challenge, but I continue to incorporate the skills I learned at basic training and in rehab to push myself each day.   My advice to anyone affected by a life-changing event would be to continue to believe in a way back — it’s key! Keep that as your focus and you too will be the best you that you can possibly be! 

If you would like to share your story on believe@Magee, please contact editor Kim Shrack at We would love to share your story with the world!

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