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Career Minded: One Woman’s Determination to Get Back to Work

March 2022 Update

In 2019 we shared a story about Amanda. She had just returned back to work after months of therapy following a brain injury she sustained when she was hit by a truck as a pedestrian. Known for her positive attitude and determination, Amanda has overcome her fears of not being able to live a normal life again.

“Nothing was going to stop me”, says Amanda about her recovery.

Amanda has a busy life, one she doesn’t take for granted. She works full-time, she’s raising three kids in high school, and manages her household on her own – all goals she set during therapy.

Returning to work after a brain injury takes hard work, something Amanda isn’t afraid of. Today, she is proud to be back to her former job as a full-time inventory coordinator at Meijer.

Amanda loves her life, one that’s filled with love and support from many close friends, family, and “Martin”, a Maine Coon cat she recently adopted.


Original Story: November 1, 2019

January 22, 2019 was just an ordinary day for Amanda Peeper. Wake up. Have coffee. Take the dog out. Go to work. Get home in time for the school bus to drop off the kids.

But it was not just an ordinary day. Not for Amanda. Not for her children. Not for the driver who hit her.

That day Amanda, an inventory coordinator for Meijer, had just stepped off the bus home from work when she was hit by a passing truck. The vehicle’s impact resulted in severe fractures to her head, neck, and torso, a pulmonary contusion, and a traumatic brain injury.

Amanda in hospital on day of accident

Amanda remained in the hospital for weeks where she had numerous surgeries to address her injuries. Once medically stable, she came to Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation to identify what skills she may have lost, and to develop a plan for how to get them back.

“I was scared that I was not going to have a normal life again,” Amanda states. “Would I be independent? Would I be able to take care of my kids? Would I be able to go back to work?”

Amanda’s concerns were legitimate. With mobility of her right upper arm significantly compromised, and memory, attention, and processing speed impaired as a result of the brain injury, Amanda was unable to care for herself or others.  A single, working mom with three kids living at home, Amanda’s life centered on her children and work. An inability to carry out either of these roles could derail not only the life she worked so hard to build, but could upend Amanda’s entire identity. To her, anything less than a full recovery was not an option.

So Amanda did what any driven mother would do; she summoned a fierce determination to get better.

“I realized that I was given a second chance at life,” says Amanda. “When you’ve worked for so long and it’s taken away from you, you work that much harder to get your life back to normal.”

“From the beginning, Amanda focused on the positive aspects of her life versus the negative,” says Cheryl Natzke, Amanda’s occupational therapist. “She used her situation and challenges to motivate herself. Many patients focus on what they can’t do, but Amanda always focused on what she could do. She recognized the progress she was making.”

Amanda and supportive coworker Jennifer

This was especially true with Amanda’s determination to return to work.

“I wanted to go back to work before I even left the hospital,” Amanda states. “I love my job, especially the customers and my coworkers. They are like a second family to me.”

Amanda’s employer – Meijer – clearly feels the same way; with colleagues calling and texting regularly to check in and offer encouragement.

“Meijer has been such a supportive employer,” says Lisa Tenner, a vocational counselor who worked closely with Meijer during Amanda’s transition back to work. “They went above and beyond what many employers do to help an employee return to work. They were generous with their time, willing to provide accommodations, were flexible with her hours, and were completely open to making any adjustments needed.”

As is common when healing from a brain injury, Amanda had to transition back to work slowly. She initially participated in work adjustment training – a program simulating job-related tasks – where she practiced relevant skills and built endurance to prepare her for the demands associated with her career, which she later performed on site at Meijer with the assistance of a job coach.

“Amanda spent many months in rehab before she was able to go back to work,” Natzke states. “She started by working limited hours, slowing increasing until she was able to go back to full time. Amanda was patient with this process, aware that she needed to transition gradually if she was going to return to work successfully.”

Amanda and her son Leeland

Her patience paid off. Amanda is now back to her role as full time inventory coordinator, working alongside the customers and coworkers who motivated her from the very beginning.

“Amanda is a really strong and positive person,” says Tenner. “She pushed through pain, frustration, and exhaustion with a great attitude and sense of humor. I think she was more determined to go back to work than anyone I’ve ever worked with.”

Today, Amanda’s ordinary day doesn’t look much different than it did before: Wake up. Have coffee. Take the dog out. Go to work. Get home in time for the school bus to drop off the kids.

But there is one tiny difference.

She now recognizes how lucky we all are to have just an ordinary day in the first place.




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