There are many different ways we find our callings in life. For some, it happens at a young age. For others, it happens later after having a new experience. For Tonya Gill, an occupational therapist at Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital, it happened during college because of a traumatic event.
While Tonya was home for spring break one year, she was in a serious car accident. The crash caused her to be ejected from the vehicle. She was flown to a trauma hospital with many injuries including internal bleeding, a collapsed lung and a broken pelvis.
Tonya spent a month and a half at the hospital. At first, she couldn’t dress herself or stand. However, she started working with the occupational therapy team to regain her strength and perform everyday tasks.
When the car accident happened, Tonya was already going to school to become an occupational therapist. After working with occupational therapists as a patient, this experience solidified her journey.
“I was in the role of a patient and knew what I needed at that time,” shares Tonya. “During those day, I made a vow that when I started my career, I would do everything in my power to make sure my patients felt loved and could resume their lives no matter what physical ailments brought them into the hospital.”
Tonya’s car accident happened 17 years ago. Today, she has been an occupational therapist for over 12 years. She sees an average of seven patients per day and their therapy needs vary. Some are stroke victims who need help regaining movement in an arm or other body part. Other times, she is teaching family members how to help their loved one live more independently. Whatever the job calls for, Tonya faces it head on.
“I try to show my patients that I care for them. I try to be the best person I can be and serve others,” says Tonya.
Tonya’s faith plays a large role in her journey to becoming an occupational therapist. She gets emotional when discussing the role Jesus plays in the important work she does.
“One of my prayers is that he can use me each day to be a light to someone else,” Tonya reveals. “I can’t see myself doing anything else but this. I know without a shadow of a doubt this is where I need to be. This is more than just a career to me and I don’t take it lightly.”
The rehab facility where Tonya received care after her car accident had strict visitor restrictions, similar to the restrictions that hospitals have been forced to implement during COVID-19 for everyone’s safety. Having gone through this herself, she knows a lot of her patients are currently relying heavily on the hospital staff for comfort and support during this difficult time. It is a role she is more than ready and happy to fill.
“I’m not a hero, I’m just doing what I love to do to the best of my ability,” Tonya shares. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve others. Especially during times like this.”
This National Hospital Week, we want to thank all of our occupational therapists and other hospital staff members who bring commitment and compassion to the work they do every day.
Learn how you can send a personal thank you to our team members during National Hospital Week.