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Project SEARCH offers “guidance and gentle hand” on journey to employment

Patient Spotlight February 28, 2017 By Main Line Health

Project SEARCH at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, part of Main Line Health, is an educational and work transition program for those with cognitive and/or physical disabilities that is customized to meet the needs of each participant and help them gain and sustain employment and greater independence. Project SEARCH works with the business community to match their business needs with the intern's talent and abilities.

Established in October 2010, Project SEARCH at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital combines real-life work experience through the integration of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Below, hear from former intern Brian Forsyth about what his time in Project SEARCH meant to him.

What has Project SEARCH meant to me? In a word: everything.

I had been in need of the program’s guidance long before my life-altering traumatic brain injury (TBI). In the years prior, I would work jobs just to get a paycheck, and it left me unfulfilled and miserable. I was a zombie, only concerned with my own rotten routine. A traffic accident jarred me loose from that spiritless existence, but I was then faced with a debilitating disability, and my mood worsened. I could only focus on the physical and psychological deficits I faced as a result of my TBI. The fact that this crisis had given me an opportunity to start a new life was lost on me, and I sunk into a deep and dangerous depression.

Luckily, I had people who cared for me and steered me towards Project SEARCH.

But, when I got that phone call telling me that I had been accepted into the program, I was only disappointed. I had secretly been hoping for rejection. I didn’t yet feel ready. All I really wanted was to use my brain injury as an excuse, a way to avoid life. I’d only applied to Project SEARCH to appease my family and friends, to put forth the appearance of effort.

Thankfully, the Project SEARCH team saw through the front I had been putting up. They saw my potential and afforded me the chance to prove my worth. Everyone involved with Project SEARCH shared compassion, wisdom and warmth. They have—from top to bottom—shown me nothing but caring support and they have instilled in me an excitement for life that I have never had.

At first, I was nervous about meeting the other interns because I had been in previous therapy groups which hadn’t worked for me. I now know that this was partly because they lacked the focus of Project SEARCH—which covers a wide range of disabilities—but mostly because I had been bringing an unhealthy attitude to them, an attitude that would quickly change.

The other Project SEARCH interns were people, too—people with their own problems—and some of them were further along than me in coping. Not only did making that realization gently stoke my competitive fire, but it corrected a flaw I held in my logic. It is a flaw that permeated my outlook on life from even before the brain injury and it caused me to exist selfishly. I took all that I learned in the classroom and applied it to everything I have done in and out of the workplace.

Now, instead of focusing on chronic pain and anguish, I am able to realize that everyone has their own personal issues. I have learned a compassion that I have tried to spread through my volunteer job at Great Expectations Together in Narberth. It is a community center for people of all ages and abilities, and I spend most of my free time there helping people with disabilities connect with the world. By doing this, I have been able to do the same.

I thank Project SEARCH for supporting me when I did not believe in myself, and for providing me with the guidance and gentle hand that led me to my current places of employment.With their help, I'm back!