March 29, 2010
Now I Can campaign celebrates triumphant return to work for St. D. secretary
By Susan Christensen
Ruby Nunnery has spent more than 28 happy years as unit secretary for St. Dominic Behavioral Health Services in Jackson.
So when a stroke threatened her reign as everyone’s favorite Girl Friday, Nunnery was heartbroken – until she found the help she needed to reclaim the job she loves.
“It was one of the happiest days when I came back to work,” she said.
Nunnery says the transition was made easier by her hard work at Quest, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s community reintegration program for brain injury survivors.
Indeed, Nunnery’s recovery was so successful, she was asked to be part of Methodist Rehab’s new Now I Can campaign. Through a series of posters, the campaign highlights the achievements of people who have triumphed over disabling injuries or illness.
“The posters are prominently displayed on Methodist Rehab’s second floor, and we did that for a reason,” said chief executive officer Mark Adams. “We believe it helps new patients realize that recovery is within reach.”
Coworker Cynthia Mangum said Nunnery has come a long way from the days when she couldn’t move her right side and could barely speak.
“I was there when she couldn’t do anything,” said Mangum, a registered nurse who took time off from work to care for her close friend at her Jackson home. “I wouldn’t cry in front of her, but it hurt me so bad. I wasn’t used to seeing her like that.”
Before her stroke, Nunnery was the go-to person who never said no. When coworkers couldn’t remember a telephone number, they knew to ask Nunnery. If a shift needed to be filled, Nunnery typically volunteered. And her knack for getting supplies delivered earned her the nickname Radar (a nod to the quintessential supply clerk on the TV show MASH).
“She was one of those people who put everyone else’s needs first,” Mangum said.
Nurse Manager Debbie Walden said Nunnery was so well-loved and respected at St. Dominic, “we would have taken her back, any way we could have gotten her back.”
But Nunnery didn’t want to return if she couldn’t be productive. So her physician recommended Quest, a Jackson outpatient program that readies brain injury survivors for a successful return to work, school or community life.
“They were so good with me,” Nunnery said. “I kept a positive attitude because they showed me nothing but positive support.”
Nunnery attended physical and occupational therapy to address the weakness in her right side, speech therapy to improve her memory and attention and psychological counseling for help with adjustment issues. As time neared for Nunnery to resume work, Quest staff studied her job duties and suggested modifications and coping strategies.
Quest therapy manager Julie Walker made sure Nunnery’s work station was user-friendly. And occupational therapist Charlene Toney adjusted the speed of Nunnery’s computer mouse and taught her to use a headset to answer the phones.
Toney also offered some sage advice for those days when Nunnery feels a bit overwhelmed. “She said when you feel frustrated, stop and take a break and meditate,” Nunnery said. “When I come back, I’m fine.”
Walden said Nunnery’s remarkable recovery “really surprised us.” “She has worked so hard and done so well. We’re really proud of her.”
While she’s still striving to get better, Nunnery said she is grateful to be back at her desk and with her “second family.”
“When I came back to work, I felt like I came home again,” she said. “Everyone was crying and saying they were glad to have me back. It made me feel so good.”
To download posters from Methodist Rehab’s Now I Can campaign, go to methodistonline.org/nowican/.
Quest therapy manager Julie Walker, standing, makes sure Ruby Nunnery has a user-friendly work station at St. Dominic Behavioral Health Services in Jackson. After Nunnery suffered a stroke, therapy at Quest helped her regain the skills to return to her job as unit secretary.