University of Southern California Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Brenda

Brenda

Brenda got a spinal cord injury in 1987. She was in a car accident, while working as a messenger. Her boyfriend cared for her afterwards, but Brenda was stressed and lonely. She lost caregivers, and lost contact with her family and friends. She became depressed and ate too much. She needed a tracheostomy. Brenda also broke her leg and got a pressure ulcer (which is what a doctor or nurse calls a pressure sore or bedsore). She ended up in the hospital. While she was in the hospital, she worked hard to get her life back together.

Read more about Brenda in these articles...

Brenda had to learn to believe in herself.

Brenda got in a car accident. She got a spinal cord injury at C-7 (the lowest of the cervical vertebrae, which are in the neck). Brenda felt a lot of feelings. She felt sad because she had to depend on helpers. Later, her boyfriend took care of her. Brenda was depressed for a long time. She gained weight. She broke her leg and got a pressure ulcer (which is what a doctor or nurse calls a pressure sore or bedsore). Brenda needed to go to the hospital.

Brenda thought a lot when she was in the hospital. She saw that she could still have control over her life. She started to believe in herself again. She said:

"It is two different shades of control. To be an upright-walking person compared to somebody in a wheelchair, it is two different kinds of control. Yeah, it is totally different. [I have control over] my decisions, things that have to be done. No one is going to do that. No one is going to control me to making up my mind. I am totally in control of things there."

→ read more in Feelings, Attitude and Believing in Yourself

Brenda was hurt in a car crash when she was working. She got a spinal cord injury. Workers' comp [compensation] paid for Brenda's health care. You might want a lawyer to help you when you are hurt at work.

→ read more in Money

Life events can make it hard to keep your habits. Brenda found out she might have breast cancer. She was worried. Worrying about breast cancer made it hard for Brenda to focus on taking care of her skin.

→ read more in Life Events and Stress

Brenda had surgery for a pressure ulcer. She was taking good care of herself after she left the hospital. Brenda found out she might have breast cancer. When she heard that, she was very surprised and worried. Brenda was too upset to take care of her skin.

Brenda was too upset after hearing she might have cancer to take care of herself. Her "Plan B" could have been changing who took care of her skin. She could have asked her boyfriend or her mother to take care of her for a while until she felt better.

→ read more in Things You Don't Expect

Speaking up for yourself is not being selfish! It is not selfish because your health is so important.

Brenda had to have surgery. She had to have a medical test called an MRI. She had to wait eight hours for the MRI. Brenda stayed on a steel table while she waited. She got a red spot on her skin from staying on the table too long. Brenda told her doctor about this problem later. The doctor was very sorry.

Brenda learned a lesson, too. She learned to tell people there is a problem right away. Maybe someone could have moved her if Brenda had said she was on the steel table too long.

Brenda learned another lesson. She did not complain about little things. She only told the nurses and doctors about important things. That way, they really listened when Brenda spoke up.

→ read more in Speaking Up For Yourself and What Causes Pressure Ulcers: Pressure and Sliding

Brenda got a pressure ulcer. She had to have surgery. Here is her advice about checking your skin:

"People really have to watch it. Your skin can change in a minute. As soon as you see redness or skin discoloration, you have to really watch it. It's important to watch it and jump right on it. Go to the doctor right away so you can have it assessed. I would tell anybody, as soon as you see redness or change of color, make an appointment with the doctor if it doesn't go away. Do as he advises; it's the way to go. You can't just lay around and hope it's going to go away. Don't just try to use lotion or repellent and think that it's gonna [work]... You really have to see the doctor and do what he says. It's important. I've learned my lesson in that."

→ read more in Things to Do to Take Care of Your Skin

Brenda needed to move her joints. This would keep them from locking in place. (That is called a contracture.) A helper was bending Brenda's leg back and forth. That is called range of motion. The helper did not notice that Brenda's leg bone broke. The broken bone caused a pressure ulcer.

→ read more in Things That Can Go Wrong with Your Health

A lot of people get a pressure ulcer because of some other illness or injury. Even people in the hospital, or a nursing home can get a pressure ulcer because of having another illness or injury. This happened to some of the people who helped with this project. These are real-life examples of something you can't control.

Brenda broke her thigh bone, and got a pressure ulcer.

→ read more in Things You Can't Control

You can get a pressure ulcer if urine or stool stays on your skin for a while. This is because there is acid and germs in urine and stool.

Brenda got a pressure ulcer when she had diarrhea (DIE-uh-REE-uh).

→ read more in Things You Can't Control

Brenda got a bad pressure ulcer. She had to go to the hospital for surgery and rest.

Brenda thought about her health when she was in the hospital. She asked herself: What do I do to prevent pressure ulcers? She saw new things she could do to take better care of herself. She planned how to be more careful with her skin when she got home. This is what Brenda said:

"...The situation really made me reflect, made me re-assess myself. I am just determined to not let it happen anymore."

→ read more in Thinking About Your Health

People who have already had a pressure ulcer understand that anybody can get a pressure ulcer. In other words, experience is the best teacher! Many people who helped with this project, including Alley, Brenda, Chris, and Helen, would probably agree.

→ read more in Learning How to Take Care of Your Skin

Brenda wanted to have control over her health care. She learned the rules of the hospital. She found out when all the nurses were on duty. She asked for help when more nurses were on duty. Brenda accepted it when little things went wrong. That way, she was able to get people to listen to her when something big went wrong. Because she believed in herself, Brenda got things done.

→ read more in Feelings, Attitude and Believing in Yourself

Brenda had a helper. Brenda liked to go shopping with her helper. She liked to go to the movies with her helper. One of her helpers fixed Brenda's hair for her.

→ read more in Caregivers and Helpers

Your partner might not know the right things to do to help you take care of yourself. Brenda moved in with her boyfriend. He wanted to take care of her. Brenda didn't need her paid helper anymore. Soon, Brenda missed her helper and her other female friends. She was so lonely she got depressed.

→ read more in Dating and Marriage

People who are depressed sometimes change how much they eat. Brenda started eating more when she was depressed. She gained weight. That hurt her health. Brenda had problems breathing when she was larger.

→ read more in Depression

Brenda moved in with her boyfriend. Her friends did not visit a lot. Brenda missed seeing her friends. She got depressed. She ate ice cream when she felt depressed. Brenda gained weight. She had trouble breathing because of her weight. Brenda needed a tracheostomy.

→ read more in Eating Healthy and Weight

Some people live with their partners. Brenda lives with her boyfriend.

→ read more in When You Don't Live in a Home

Brenda was in the hospital. She found out when the nurses worked. She waited till more nurses were working. Then she asked for what she needed. That way, the nurses had lots of time to help Brenda. She worked well with the nurses! That way, Brenda asked for what she wanted, but wasn't rude.

→ read more in When You Don't Live in a Home

Brenda got a pressure ulcer. She had to have surgery. She learned the rules of the hospital. Brenda learned when the nurses were working. She learned when things happened in the hospital. Brenda used this knowledge to plan what to do every day. She chose not to complain about little things. She spoke up about big things. That way, people really listened when she spoke up for herself. Brenda was in control of her health care! Brenda felt happy and proud.

→ read more in Working With Your Doctor