Success on the OHSU Impact Team!
Peer Story: Brandy Fishback
The following recovery story was written by O’nesha Cochran, who was a peer support specialist for MHAAO on the OHSU Impact team.
“My turning point was my fifth hospitalization, when the IMPACT team came into my room to see me. They were kind and supportive, just like the first time they met me. I thought for sure they would come in and be like, ‘Oh, it's her again.’ But they didn't. They believed in me and I was taken aback by that.
It made me think that if they believe in me, maybe I should believe in me too. I decided to give myself a little bit of a chance. I couldn't believe in myself as much as they did, so I just had to believe that what they were telling me that I could achieve, I could actually do. Now seven months later, I can't believe what I've been able to do, and I'm so grateful that they never gave up on me.”
I met Brandy in June of 2016 at the OHSU hospital. She was a very bubbly young lady and her eyes would light up when I walked in the room. She had severe complications with her physical health due to chronic opiate use and told me that she really wanted to go to treatment. Our team of social workers, doctors, and peers worked around the clock to secure a treatment bed for her.
The day she was supposed to enter the program, Brandy called and asked if she could take one day to pack her clothes and visit her children. Ever the advocate, I assured her that I would make it happen, and I agreed to pick her up the next day. The next morning, I called her family member, who said that Brandy had relapsed and would not be at that number any more. Devastated, our team focused our attention on our other patients.
A month later, Brandy came in again, just as bubbly as before. She jumped out of her bed to hug me and apologized profusely for not making it to treatment. I told her that the only thing that mattered to me was that she was alive and that we continued to work toward a better future for her. The day finally came for her to leave the hospital and go to treatment, and once again, she did not make it.
This became a pattern for her every month or so. Brandy would come through the emergency room and end up on our client list. Each time, we would meet her with a smile and tell her that the only thing that mattered to us was helping her get better. Over time, I watched as the light in her eyes grew dimmer. The resources she had and the safe people she was able to call became obsolete.
The fifth time I saw her, she was in really bad shape; physically, mentally and spiritually. Her health was worse than before and she had to endure several physical complications. She couldn’t get out of the bed to hug me. Her banter and chatter was gone, and her eyes were very sad. I knew she didn’t need a cheerful quote. She needed to hear about my rock bottom. She needed to know about my darkest night. So, I confided in Brandy and told her about my last use. I told her about the violence and the degradation I survived. By the time I ended my story, we were both in tears.
She looked at me, and just like that, I saw hope in her eyes again. Maybe what happened to her wasn’t as bad as what happened to me, or maybe it was worse. That wasn’t important. What she needed to know was that I survived it, which meant she could survive this too.
It has been a joy working with Brandy. Today, she has a job and is committed to her recovery. She has an amazing relationship with her children and her family. Most importantly Brandy knows for herself that she can do anything. And guess what?! Her eyes are not only shining again, they are radiant with beauty, faith, hope, and love!