Shepherd Center Employee Feature: Gale Eckstein
After her husband David recovered from a brain injury, Gale Eckstein began working at Shepherd Center.
A month before her husband’s brain injury, Gale's life seemed fairly predictable. She was working full-time in a support role she enjoyed for a pastor in Roswell, Georgia, and her husband, David, was working in sales. Gale and David’s three children had completed college and worked in their respective fields. They had just downsized to a smaller home the year before and were finally able to save a more significant portion of their income towards retirement because the kids were out of the nest. Church and family were important, and they were active with both.
During a business trip, David was found unresponsive, the result of developing staph sepsis. He was given a 15% chance of survival. After the initial prognosis, David suffered complications that threatened his life further. A few days before Gale and David arrived at Shepherd Center, David started to emerge from his coma, but he was still fed through a feeding tube, unable to sit up by himself, and could hardly communicate. Gale spent 99% of every day for six weeks by his side in his acute care hospital room, sleeping on a pallet on the floor at night. She was physically and emotionally exhausted and soon had to worry about finances as both Gale and David lost their jobs. Nevertheless, those six weeks of challenges brought Gale to have an even stronger faith in God. That faith sustained her.
David spent weeks as an inpatient in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program and three months in the Day Program. Gale struggled with some longer-term questions like, “Could I alone provide enough of an income to sustain us? Would I need to make our home wheelchair accessible?” But, it was very stabilizing to see their immediate challenges being met. David was getting outstanding care and rehabilitation, and he was applying himself 100%. The therapists were organized, productively demanding, and encouraging. The nursing staff was friendly, efficient, and compassionate to them both. From David’s physician to the environmental services staff that cleaned his room every day, the employees were engaging and treated the couple with warmth and respect.
During the four months David was rehabilitating at Shepherd, several people on staff told Gale she would make a great Shepherd employee. After David’s discharge, he started looking for appropriate work, and so did Gale. One day a position was advertised on the Shepherd website, and when she read the description, Gale was stunned. It was as though a position had been designed exactly for where Gale’s heart and strengths aligned. To support the family members of patients at Shepherd as they go through the indescribable journey of navigating their world being turned upside down like hers was a dream job.
Currently, Gale is the Family Support Services Coordinator, where she supervises volunteers who help connect family members of current patients to her. Gale and her team of volunteers visit families in the patient’s room soon after admission to welcome them and tell them about what she can do for them, deliver patients’ mail and packages every day, help the family with local errands, give haircuts to patients, and much more. Gale also plans monthly events and publishes them to an event calendar for families. In addition, Gale is the point person for Shepherd’s local housing partners, and she organizes Shepherd’s Red Cross blood drives onsite three times each year.
Read more stories like these in our Community Benefit Report.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.