Regina Pontes had a book she wanted to write but no way to write it. In 2011, following a series of debilitating illnesses, she experienced a stroke and lost function on her dominant left side. When a counselor at the Boston Center for Independent Living suggested she apply for Easterseals's Assistive Technology assistance, she was surprised. "I thought Easterseals served just children. I had no idea what they did for adults, and I had no idea all that they'd do for me."
Her book idea had come about during her stay in rehabilitation. She'd woken at 2 a.m. to a voice saying, "Lessons learned, write it down, lessons learned." She was so taken with the message, she asked the night aid to record it on her room's wipe-off board.
She describes the experience like a calling. Throughout her life, she'd been thrown tremendous physical and emotional challenges, and she felt she understood well the faith and tenacity it would take to again regain her independence. "A book about overcoming hardship," she realized, "could help a lot of people."
The next day her sister brought her a laptop, and she attempted to create an outline. That's when she saw how hard she'd have to work to relearn to type. Once she'd typed 120 words per minute; now she could type only a few using just her right hand. It was also awkward trying to type in rehab sitting up in bed and with the one little table. She knocked water across the keyboard and took out her laptop.
After rehab, Regina welcomed Easterseals Assistive Technology specialists Julie Arroyo and Jessie Salz at her home. Easterseals, she learned, does work with adults through its contracts with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission for Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation Services. They routinely visit clients in their homes and workplaces.
Jesse asked Regina about her goals and learned she needed reliable computer access to help her connect with her health care providers, to work on her book and connect socially on Facebook. She set Regina up on a laptop powerful enough to run the voice recognition software, Dragon Naturally Speaking. Now Regina would have the option to write using only her voice. She also obtained Regina an adjustable height desk. As an occupational therapist, Jessie noticed other things around the house that might make life easier, too, including a one-handed can opener and "a few other devices that were wonderful," Regina says. "They were extremely proactive. They gave me new hardware and new motivation."
As essential as the new hardware was, it was the training that made the strongest impression. "I loved that Easterseals was so willing to come out and provide training. They visited me monthly. They just wanted to do it."
Lessons learned, write it down, lessons learned. Regina had a book to write, and now she had options for how to write it.
Once equipped, Regina began with small goals. She found she was grieving her brother who'd died years before and decided to create a Facebook page in his honor. He'd left behind 350 poems when he died, so every day for a year she decided to post one poem as a kind of memorial. In the end, she found her aphasia made Dragon not always her preferred method, but it relieved her typing hand that grew stronger with perseverance.
Typing her brother's poems was a way to grow stronger emotionally, too. She began to receive words of encouragement from around the world, "People from Mumbai to Maine were reading my brother's poems and writing me. It was crazy!"
Today her brother's Facebook page has over 2,000 followers. And Perseverance is Key is available on Amazon (check out these reviews!)