Shepherd Center Employee Spotlight: Claire Holley
Claire is a busy mom with two beautiful daughters. Her oldest, Amelia, was born with a rare congenital condition, hydrocephalus, and Dandy-Walker syndrome, which required surgeries to remove excess fluid and pressure on her brain. Aside from the surgeries, everything seemed on track for Amelia, a senior in high school. Three weeks after her acceptance into college in a singer/songwriter program, Amelia and her mother headed to New York for another surgery. During this surgery Amelia had a stroke. Amelia was non-responsive and having seizures. Claire notes that this was a scary time for the family, but she vividly remembers saying to her husband, who was back home taking care of Amelia’s sister, “it seems like a brain injury; we gotta get to Shepherd.”
Claire, a nurse, was familiar with Shepherd Center because she worked for a nearby hospital.
With perseverance and many prayers, Amelia was finally admitted to Shepherd Center. Once at Shepherd, Claire felt that she could finally breathe because of the hope and calm presented to the family and a “we got this” attitude. Shepherd Center co-founders, Alana and the late James Shepherd, greeted them, which gave them friendly faces and a family welcome. Claire admits there were many ups and downs during Amelia’s rehabilitation, but it was the little things, like having a wheelchair ready for her or even helping her take a shower and getting her dressed after months of not doing these things that made all the difference. Therapy was very aggressive for Amelia and she advanced very quickly, so much so that Amelia even got to go to her senior prom.
A year after Amelia's discharge, Claire started volunteering at Shepherd Center by serving on the brain injury caregiver board. Her volunteerism led to employment as a Brain Injury Peer Support Coordinator, where she supports families whose loved ones have sustained a brain injury. Claire teaches inpatient and outpatient classes and supports research projects on the efficacy of peer support. Claire notes that Shepherd Center empowers patients and family members to embrace life in the moment. And today, Amelia has graduated from college with honors and is now pursuing a master’s degree in child life.
For more stories about former patients or family members of patients who have decided to give back to Shepherd Center as employees or volunteers, read 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 neuromuscular 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.