Connecting the Dots

Florida_2013_Family-PhotoBy Rob Allen, Crossings Volunteer Writing Team

Using the Ordinary

God has a way of connecting the dots in our lives. What we call “our story” is really the sum total of God’s ability to run interference and adjust for detours, enabling us to seek and find His will. Pam Forducey is a Rehabilitation Psychologist whose life is just such a story of God’s math.

Even though she has a PhD and leads other professionals in her role as a director at INTEGRIS Health, she is quick to add she believes herself to be “ordinary.” Her focus and passion is on working with families whose loved one has been disabled by a physical condition such as a traumatic brain injury, stroke, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or Dementia. The patient is not the only one who needs to learn to redefine life. She works to provide “support for individuals with disability and their family members … to recalibrate their roles in the family and community.” But after work, several times per month, she meets with Crossings Community Center & Clinic families offering guidance, insight, and cognitive rehabilitation. Pam’s decision to volunteer at the Clinic came after hearing about a need for mental health providers in their Behavioral Health Department. It connected with her passion and allowed her to serve a population without the financial resources to find such services otherwise.

Counting Her Blessings

The Clinic became a vital part of Pam’s life. “Volunteering with individuals with disability and their caregivers has become a highlight of my week,” she says. “What an awesome blessing and honor it is to work with these folks. I am fairly confident I learn more from my clients and their families than they learn from me. Their resilience is an inspiration to me and makes volunteering a pleasure and privilege.” As she works with others, she reflects on her own journey and has come to realize her role as a psychologist did not come by accident. Pam was raised by her paternal grandparents, as her mother was not well emotionally. Because of her mother’s condition, Pam grew up feeling insecure and afraid of being mentally ill herself which made her feel abandoned and different.

At age 16, she met her mother and learned of a terrible auto accident that had caused her a severe traumatic brain injury. Several years later, in graduate school, she connected the dots realizing her mother’s inability to provide parenting was the result of brain damage caused by that accident. This connection was brought home again when, as a new psychologist, one of her first assignments was a family whose child had suffered brain injury during an automobile accident.

Following God’s Plan

She talks passionately about her work, both professionally and as a volunteer. With pride, she recalls working hard to help establish a program to enable stroke survivors to receive the right treatment at the right time. The TeleStroke Network is one such program provided in rural hospitals across Oklahoma. She was thankful to be a small part of this statewide TeleStroke Network to ensure all Oklahomans have access to evidence-based emergent care for stroke. Another dot connected last year was when someone very close to Pam suffered a stroke. The Medical Director, Dr. Lawrence Davis, of the INTEGRIS TeleStroke Network (the program she worked so hard to help establish), provided emergency stroke care to her husband in Oklahoma City, when he experienced a stroke while at work in Spencer, Oklahoma.

She laments her journey has been filled with detours and missteps. Her wealthy, biological father provided an expensive private school education for her. As a young adult, she was a student at Pepperdine University in California, with graduate school on her radar. A PhD would mean, in her mind, that others would accept and not abandon her, but the financial security she had enjoyed was breeched when her father’s gambling and drug addiction forced him to seek bankruptcy. She enrolled the next year at an Oklahoma City junior college instead of the more elite California school. She was discouraged, but continued on, battling through the disappointment, uncertainty and insecurity. Almost dropping out of her difficult PhD program, a Statistics Professor from the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Larry Toothaker, encouraged her to continue and eventually suggested considering Rehabilitation Psychology as a specialty in the field of psychology.

Giving Back Passionately

Pam admits to struggling to be obedient to God’s path at times and has often strayed, but God continued to bring her back to this path. “So much of my life was all about me,” she confesses. “I wanted to be extraordinary, but I realize now that God wants to use the ordinary.” She speaks sincerely about wanting God’s will to be revealed in her life. “It is up to us to get outside of ourselves and serve,” says Pam. She sees her work at INTEGRIS Health, her development of the TeleStroke Network as well as other virtual health programs, her service to others and her childhood as “pieces of thread in God’s tapestry.” Stephanie, the 31-year-old daughter of a parent with Dementia and a client of Pam’s believes, “The counseling sessions at the Clinic have been a great help for me and my mother, who has recently been diagnosed with Dementia. Pam is truly a blessing from God as she offers her knowledge and time. I am very thankful to the Clinic and would love to give back in some way.”

Pam’s life is now defined by all the dots connected by God. God took a girl who could not be raised by her birth mother due to traumatic brain injury and called her to be an advocate for others suffering the same loss of normalcy – and also seeking to connect the dots in their lives.

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