When a person survives a catastrophic injury, it’s not only their physical scars that run deep. Below the surface, many people struggle psychologically and emotionally. Some face isolation, crippling debt, and an inability to work. Life as they know it will never be the same and accepting this reality can be one of the biggest challenges of all.
Carole Upman knows these circumstances all too well, having devoted much of her life to helping this population. In 1991, she founded and became president of Chesapeake Disability Management, Inc., an organization that offers catastrophic case management services to injured workers. While she has since retired and closed the company in March of this year, Carole oversaw a staff of knowledgeable, experienced nurses and vocational counselors who worked with injured workers with intense rehabilitation needs.
“These injured workers may require long distance transportation or a rehabilitation service at home in a different state than they experienced the injury,” Carole explains. “It takes creative planning and backup plans to move to the next level of recovery.”
As a registered nurse, certified case manager, and nurse life care planner, Carole has seen some of the most extreme and complex cases — second or third degree burns over 80 to 90 percent of a person’s body, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and crushed/amputated extremities. The people Carole served were injured on the job and her role was to help these patients navigate through the various challenges of surviving a catastrophic event. She addressed matters such as worker’s compensation, communicating with insurance companies, offering support to the family, and helping the patient regain their independence.
“Whatever the needs were, my purpose was to make this an easier experience for them. These individuals were coping with a plethora of problems,” she explains.
Many people that Carole encountered over the years received treatment at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Her relationship with Shock Trauma began in the 1970s, when she first learned of the “golden hour” and saw up close the inner workings of the trauma center. To this day, Carole remains impressed by the highly orchestrated care that occurs for every patient, in every circumstance.
“There are systems and protocols in place at Shock Trauma not only administratively, but medically to help ensure that the team doesn’t miss potentially life-threatening issues that may go unseen in other facilities,” she says.
Carole provided emotional support as well. The mental toll that a catastrophic injury takes on both the patient and their family is substantial — and when a person’s livelihood is dependent on the use of their body, the emotional cost is that much higher.
“When you take away their ability to work, it’s devastating psychologically and socially,” Carole explains. “They don’t know what their role is in society and they don’t know if they have a role in society. How are they going to be able to recover when they’ve defined themselves by what they physically did? And many of these folks have done hard physical labor.”
Over the years, Carole witnessed the relentless grief of patients who lost so much of their livelihood due to their injury. She also recognized the difference that having — or not having — family support made in their recovery. Involved and present families can boost the patient’s morale, help move them forward, and give them hope for the future. However, many families cannot shoulder the daily costs that come with visiting their loved one — especially if the family lives far away and their relative is hospitalized for weeks or months.
To alleviate this obstacle, Carole and her husband, Michael, established The Upman Endowed Fund for R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center Patients. Carole’s admiration for Shock Trauma coupled with her longtime advocacy for severely injured workers inspired the creation of the fund, which will help with everyday needs, such as lodging, transportation, gas, parking, and food.
“Not everybody has as much on reserve as we’d like these days. The idea is that if the patient or family has an urgent need, but doesn’t have the financial resources to fill it, the fund will cover the cost,” Carole explains. “I want the family to have what they need to stay involved in their loved one’s recovery.”
She and Michael feel blessed that they have the means to provide this opportunity to future patients and families. While she knows the fund won’t solve every challenge, Carole hopes it will at least bring some respite during an extremely trying and difficult time.
“I hope this fund makes their life changes more tenable and eases some of the new challenges that they will have to learn to navigate,” Carole says. “And maybe take down some of the barriers to wellness.”
To make a gift in support of the Shock Trauma Center, please click here.