Shands occupational therapist a big part of patient’s road to recovery
By Nickie Doria
The I Promise initiative is about making every patient’s experience the best it can be. For more information about I Promise and to see a video about Lauren Ault and Megan Molyneux, visit ipromise.health.ufl.edu.
In fall 2008, Lauren Ault was admitted to Shands Rehab Hospital after undergoing a series of complicated brain and stomach surgeries to remove a brainstem tumor. Almost immediately, Megan Molyneux, O.T., a Shands Rehab Hospital occupational therapist, felt a connection with the young woman.
“She was only a couple of years younger than me,” Molyneux said. “I came to know that she has such a loving spirit.”
A young woman who loves riding horses, Ault had suffered severe cranial nerve damage from the tumor. She couldn’t speak right after surgery and needed intensive rehabilitation to relearn how to walk. During the two months Ault spent at Shands Rehab Hospital, she and Molyneux formed a close bond. Molyneux worked with Ault to get ready in the mornings, helping with her hair and make-up.
“We wanted her to feel like a normal 20-something,” Molyneux said.
At the time, Molyneux was pregnant with her son, and Ault was excited about the new baby on the way.
“She would rub my belly every day and ask me how I was doing,” she said. “After my son was born, I brought him here to see Lauren. That was our first outing.”
Time went on, and when Ault was discharged, Molyneux was determined to be her champion and companion. She started a group called Lauren’s Angels, which is dedicated to raising funds for improvements to Ault’s home.
“I think Lauren is the most selfless person,” Molyneux said. “She is always concerned with everyone around her and shows little worry about herself. I am inspired by that.”
Molyneux has worked tirelessly to build awareness about Ault’s situation. She created a Facebook page and a website, talked to local media and secured publicity through TV stations, newspapers and radio stations.
Molyneux also was instrumental in organizing a special 5K walk/run last year to help raise money for Ault and her family. With Molyneux’s help, Ault has gone back to one of her favorite activities; she now has therapy on horseback and hopes to eventually ride a horse alone again.
“The story here is about Lauren’s tremendous progress and her road to recovery,” Molyneux said. “I just want to be her friend. I want to help her move on with her life, and I want to encourage her to be brave.”
Molyneux’s father spent time in the hospital when she was younger, and it was then that she learned how vulnerable people feel when they are in a hospital environment.
“That’s why I chose to do what I do; I want patients to feel loved,” Molyneux said. “I want to help people. I want to be their advocate, and I want them to know that they are not alone. This isn’t just a job … it’s my calling.”