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Kate Belashova

Kate's Journey: Achievements through Inspiration

There is no doubt that sustaining a brain injury is a life-changing event for everyone involved. It changes families, professional lives, perspectives and attitudes. Living with a brain injury can be especially hard for someone who strongly identifies with and defines themselves through their accomplishments and abilities. 

Enter Ekaterina (Kate) Belashova, a smart, strong-willed woman who came to the United States when she was 27 years old. Kate was committed to making a difference and looked for every opportunity to learn. After already receiving a Master of Arts in History in her native country of Ukraine, Kate decided to continue her education and in 2004 graduated from Drake University with an MBA and a 4.0 grade point average. She also completed an organic chemistry class at the local college when she thought the information would be helpful in her career; and although she was already fluent in three languages, Kate also began taking Spanish language classes. An achiever by any standard, Kate was dedicated to meeting her goals. 

Everything changed for Kate on March 9, 2012, when she was found on the floor by her 15-year-old son, Daneel, unable to speak or move the right side of her body. Kate was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines where a CT scan confirmed that she had suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain. Kate was admitted to the hospital's acute rehabilitation unit for her initial rehabilitation and started On With Life's Outpatient Neuro Rehabilitation Program on April 2, 2012. 

"When Kate  started therapy with us, she was ambulating well, but her right arm was largely non-functional," explained Courtney Huber, speech pathologist at On With Life. "Kate also suffered from severe aphasia, a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. She was only able to communicate verbally with answering yes or no questions." 

For the next few months Kate worked extremely hard in therapy to gain back as much as she could, explaining in an interview that therapy is an extremely frustrating process, but she tries to stay positive. 

"I'm very determined to meet my goals," Kate explains through a combination of writing out her answers and communicating in short affirmative responses. "It is a hard thing to know what you want to say, but not having the ability to communicate it effectively." 

Kate continues to visit On With Life on an outpatient basis to receive speech therapy, but is more well known within our walls for a different role. Since February 19, 2013, Kate has served as a volunteer in our Inpatient Rehabilitation Program, attending Wellness Group multiple times per week and helping any way she can. 

"Kate has such a kind demeanor and our persons served feel almost instantly comfortable around her," said Amy Bishop, music therapist at On With Life. "I introduced her to a former person served recently who also has severe aphasia and there was an immediate bond between the two. It is an amazing thing to be able to connect with someone on that level and Kate has that ability." 

Volunteering has proven to be more than just a one-sided benefit. 

"Not only is Kate able to be a part of a persons served recovery as someone who is there to support them, she can also benefit herself from being in that treatment session to challenge her own communication skills," said Bishop. 

Kate has been an inspiration to many and even through a tremendous amount of adversity over the last year, she continues to remain optimistic. 

"Kate has been the model of persistence, as well as a stark reminder that internal motivation is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to recovery from a brain injury," explained Huber, who continues to work with Kate on her speech and communication goals. "She has worked her tail off in all of her therapies and outside of her therapies and she continues to make gains every day." 

It is clear, however, after even just a short time with Kate, that she isn't yet satisfied with her level of recovery. 

"I've made good progress, but I want to make even more," explains Kate. "I'm very determined and dedicated to meeting my goals." 

If history is any indication, Kate won't be giving up anytime soon.