A Journey of Resilience

August 03, 2023

This is the cover story from the Summer 2023 issue of Sweet Charity, a Good Shepherd publication. Learn more.

While many children enjoy carefree school days and endless extracurricular activities, 2nd grader Sarah Brown and her family faced a challenging and ambiguous journey. At 7 years old, Sarah began experiencing mysterious, gradually worsening symptoms. By 5th grade, her condition worsened to where she could no longer complete schoolwork independently. With an urgent need for answers, Sarah’s family tirelessly searched for a solution.

Although her symptoms were consistent with Lyme disease, Sarah’s tests repeatedly returned negative, leaving doctors unwilling to diagnose her. Years passed before she received formal confirmation of Lyme and several other tickborne infections. Sarah received in-home education throughout middle school while her parents searched for alternative treatments. When their path intersected with Good Shepherd Rehabilitation in Allentown, it was a beacon of hope. By this time, swelling in Sarah’s brain had robbed much of her ability to read, spell, add and perform daily cognitive functions.

Fortunately, at Good Shepherd, Sarah’s speech-language pathologist, Mary Jean Stankoski, devised a transformative care plan that altered the course of Sarah’s life. Sarah recalled: “Mary Jean used all the tools in her toolbox to uncover creative ways to help me be successful.”

Together, they used strategies such as vivid visualization, speech and language exercises, and motor planning activities to forge new connections for Sarah to regain old skills and acquire new knowledge. The interactive metronome was instrumental in strengthening Sarah’s reading and higher-level cognitive abilities.

A pivotal turning point emerged in 9th grade when Sarah’s remarkable progress allowed her to return to some in-person classes. Mary Jean participated in meetings at Sarah’s school to support her continued progress. A notebook served as a conduit for communication, allowing Sarah’s caregivers to share daily progress notes. After successfully completing rehabilitation therapy, Sarah returned to Good Shepherd as a high school volunteer to assist others at the site.

“That was a full circle moment for me,” Sarah said. “I was fully dependent on Good Shepherd to get better, and now, I can give back my time to show my appreciation for them.”

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Despite the disease robbing Sarah of much of her childhood, her Good Shepherd team and loving family provided steady support, enabling her to achieve complete independence. Today, she enthusiastically pursues studies in Clinical Psychology and Criminal Justice at DeSales University, with plans to work in corrections as a behavioral counselor. She keeps busy working on campus as a tutor, tour guide and orientation mentor.

Through the unwavering support of her Good Shepherd team and her loving family, Sarah overcame tremendous challenges. She embraces her future with steadfast determination, knowing that her journey exemplifies the incredible impact of Good Shepherd’s life-changing care.

Ultimately, Sarah is appreciative of the tireless efforts of her care team.

“I will forever be grateful for the talented employees at Good Shepherd who contributed to my full recovery from a debilitating illness,” she said.

For more on how Good Shepherd Rehabilitation can help you on your rehabilitation journey, call 1.888.44.REHAB (73422) or contact us online.