Atlanta, GA,
17:15 PM

Brain Injury Leads Woman to Her Career Path

Hannah Boulware is studying rehabilitation counseling.

As fall 2019 began, Hannah Boulware, 23, was getting to know the town of Kent, Ohio, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree at Kent State University.

“Yeah, it took about a day,” she says jokingly of exploring Kent, population 29,662.

Talk with Hannah for a while, and you’ll quickly realize she can deliver a good quip.

“Yeah, sarcasm is my calling card,” she says with a laugh. “Some might call it snarky.”

There’s more than snark, though, to this Shepherd Center alumna. There’s also a lot of resilience. At 16, Hannah had a grand mal seizure at her high school and fell three flights of concrete stairs, sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

From Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, in her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she was transferred to Shepherd Center’s inpatient Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program. She also did a longer outpatient stint at Shepherd Pathways, Shepherd Center’s post-acute brain rehabilitation program. Hannah’s greatest challenge was reclaiming her speech.

“I had word salad, hardcore,” Hannah says of her initial time at Shepherd Center. “I couldn’t string words together or find the right words I wanted to use. But that’s why I loved my time there so much. They understood where I was coming from. They were patient. They had a plan, and we got work done, but they also went with the flow. It always felt like we were just hanging out. It didn’t feel like I was in therapy.”

One of her speech therapists even took her shopping to buy a wedding gift.

“Of course, she made me talk to customer service to practice my conversation skills,” Hannah says. “They never stop! But that’s why they’re so good at what they do.”

And it’s why Hannah is on her current path. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she earned a fellowship to study rehabilitation counseling at Kent State. Her goal is to be a speech therapist. She hopes one day that will happen at Shepherd Center.

“They changed my whole outlook on life,” she says. “They helped me get to where I should be, so I want to help other people get to where they should be.”

Written by Phillip Jordan

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.