Ty has been a resident of Catherine’s House for four months, however many days you would barely know she is in the house. She is a quiet young woman with kind eyes and a gentle smile. She maintains her quiet demeanor, “until she knows you, then she will open up.”
We are grateful that she felt trusting and safe enough to sit down and share her story with us. Her journey is one that is highlighted as a sister’s commitment to her brother, even above her own needs. It is a story that would make a parent proud.
Ty was born in Illinois; in Kankakee, a small town about an hour south of Chicago. She was second child of four, with an older sister and two younger brothers. Her mother was a longtime school teacher. Her childhood was a happy and healthy one. She was a creative and artistic child; one whom excelled in school and enjoyed playing the violin.
Ty’s mother suffered from some health troubles. A car accident from her past left her suffering from random seizures. One day, while she was teaching at school, she had a severe asthma attack. The paramedics were called. By the time the ambulance reached the hospital, her mother had passed away. Ty was 16 years old.
As one might expect, the death of their mother was devastating to Ty and her siblings. With no family close by, they would have to move. Her older sister was 18, so she chose to stay in Illinois. The closest family members – two aunts – were in Charlotte. So Ty and her younger brothers came to Charlotte, where Ty lived with one aunt and her brothers lived with another aunt. Because of the distance between their houses, Ty rarely saw her brothers. This was difficult for Ty because they were all close; particularly her oldest brother, who suffered from serious health issues. She had always been there to help him with his needs.
Despite the family’s recent trauma, Ty settled into her new community. She continued to excel in her academics, completing high school and earning admission into NC State University, with a long-term goal or working for a community development or nonprofit organization. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she continued on, pursuing a Master’s degree. It was at this time that a second significant trauma affected Ty’s life.
While pursuing her master’s degree, Ty was the victim of sexual assault and domestic violence. At the same time, the health of her brother began to decline, to the point that he needed a full-time caregiver. Ty made the decision to forgo her continued education to move back to Charlotte and help provide for her brother.
Soon, the stress that Ty was experiencing began to overwhelm her. In addition to working full-time, Ty was also serving as the caregiver from her brother, many nights getting only 2-3 hours of sleep. She tried to put her past trauma behind her, but without professional help, she was having trouble doing so.
Ty’s health began to decline as well. She began experiencing her own seizures. Doctors concluded that her seizures were not genetic, that they were different from the ones that her mother and brother suffered from. It was their estimate that her seizures and health issues were a result of her past trauma. Those traumas, combined with consistent, long-term sleep depravity, was causing her body to react in a negative way.
Regardless of their cause, the severity of Ty’s stress and seizures were affecting every aspect of her life. Her seizure activity became so severe that she was unable to keep a job. Additionally, while acting in her care giving capacity, the seizures that she would suffer would trigger her brother to have seizures as well. Doctors and other providers that she has seen have recommended that she not work until her seizures slow down or end completely.
Ty decided that she needed to make a difficult decision and focus on her own health. “I wasn’t getting help for myself. By being in a caregiver role, I was not able to do my own self-care. Taking care of my brother became a 24 hour job. I wanted to continue to help my brother, but in order to do so, I needed to help myself first.”
It was at this time that she found Catherine’s House. Her time at Catherine’s House has been helpful. Since being here, her seizure activity has reduced, almost completely. Her activity has gone from up to 10-14 each day to only one seizure every few weeks. “It was the best decision for me. Had I not stepped away, I would still be suffering and unable to take care of myself or my brother.”
Ty’s journey is far from over. Her next hurdle to overcome is her fight to return to work. She wants to work, but has had a difficult time finding a job due to her seizures. She has been unable to receive any assistance from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. They are uncomfortable placing her in a work environment where she could have a seizure. They suggested that she apply for disability. Unfortunately, her disability applications have been declined because they feel she is capable of working. It has been an ongoing debate between the two government organizations.
Given her choice, Ty would like to return to work. In the near future, Ty will be seen by a neurologist who will hopefully provide her with the information and medical determination that she needs in order to receive assistance from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and return to work. Her dream job remains the same: working with a non-profit in the social services or human services field.” I would love to help individuals of disadvantaged populations; or the arts as well. Both of these are very interesting to me. My goal is to continue to develop my career and to better myself. My journey is far from over.”
“Catherine’s House has been very helpful to me. It’s a safe environment and a wonderful community. Everyone is very positive, loving and supportive. It is a place to heal and grow. I really believe in what is being done here.”
We look forward to sharing news of Ty’s continued success. Please keep her in your prayers.