Peace River mother overcomes injury and disability to earn a NAIT diploma
Lana McLaughlin, who graduates this week from the Civil Engineering Technology program, has fond memories of life before her accident.
“I was lucky,” said the 41 year old. “I was born healthy; I was smart; I was popular; I had lots of friends.”
She graduated high school just behind the top student and went on to university and a job in banking. She was excitedly planning her career.
Those plans went on hold when, at 19 years old, McLaughlin suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a car crash. She spent four weeks in a coma and woke without being able to use her legs. The left side of her body was paralyzed and her speech was slurred. For years following the accident, she suffered from severe fatigue, as well as cognitive and thinking impairments.
McLaughlin longed to be the person she was before the accident but realized she had to accept the change. After years of rehabilitative therapy and training parts of her brain and body to do what other parts no longer could, she successfully raised two children and decided it was time to revisit old ambitions. She temporarily relocated to Edmonton from Peace River to attend NAIT. “Twenty-one years after my injury, it was a chance for mommy to go to school and make things better for herself and her family.”
Before enrolling at the polytechnic, McLaughlin contacted NAIT’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) for help dealing with winter depression and the absence of her family. She also met with an adviser about services for her brain injury. Feeling she’d beaten it, she didn’t seek support for her studies.
Soon, however, she struggled to keep up. “I went to my first exam and I failed.” So she asked SSD to help her receive accommodations for the rest of her exams. “It was not an advantage that I wanted – it was just levelling the playing field so that I could succeed.”
When that first set of exams was complete, she returned to SSD for a comprehensive assessment and discovered that old injury had in fact led to a disability. SSD helped her improve her study skills, connected her with a tutor and, perhaps most importantly, identified strong abilities and boosted her confidence. With hard work, things turned around. “The best part was going from failing a year ago to honour roll the second term,” said McLaughlin.
As a new graduate ready to enter the workforce, McLaughlin gives the impression of someone embarking on a fresh start with a new set of plans. “I’m really looking forward to my new career that I’m getting later in life.”
NAIT's 2015 Convocation will be held on Friday, May 1 (6:30 p.m.) and Saturday, May 2 (8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) at The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, 11455 - 87 Ave.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Lana will cross the stage at the Friday evening ceremony. Her family will be in attendance.
Visit NAIT’s Flickr page (www.flickr.com/nait) to download a photo of Lana suitable for publication.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and trades. With more than 60,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads are essential to Alberta’s prosperity. Known for hands-on, technology-based learning, NAIT engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. Recognized as one of Alberta’s top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.