Natalie wrote this post in 2015 about Felicia - our Insurance Specialist here at Alala. Felicia tells us all the time that we are her family - but she is also ours. Enjoy her story - Sherry
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Felicia Montgomery joined Alala's team one and a half years ago to handle insurance and billing and check clients' benefits. Before her time at Alala, Felicia worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) starting when she was 18 years old. She also worked with a vocational rehabilitation center to help disabled people go back to work. At the age of twelve, Felicia was diagnosed with capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE), a bone disease in her hips that are causing them to deteriorate. This particular disease usually affects boys ages 11-15. Felicia was the one out of 100,000 girls to be afflicted with this debilitating disease. Felicia’s spirit is evident in her response to the doctors who said she would never work and would be in a wheelchair by age 30. She is now 40 years old and still working.
Five years ago, a car in a Walmart parking lot hit her and put her out of work, again. Her prayers were answered when she found her job at Alala. She could finally work part time, have the flexibility in work hours to take time off for medical appointments and personal time as flare-ups occurred. Although considered totally disabled (and unhireable) due to her sporadic good health, many doctors appointments and sudden flare-ups, Felicia has found a work family at Alala. She continues to beat the odds her doctor gave her and ever thankful to the opportunity to again help other people.
What's different to Felicia about Alala is the sense of pride this company gives her. She still gets to take care of people, but she believes that Alala gives clients back their pride and stability to stand out in the world and feel whole again. "With me, it's the feeling of being needed, just to be able to get up in the morning and come to work because I didn't work for a lot of years. [As a CNA], I loved taking care of people; it gave me that sense of being needed and having something to do. I had a purpose somewhere, letting me know that I made someone's last days on this Earth comfortable and happy. I made them smile and I feel the same way about this job." Giving up being a CNA is one of the hardest decisions especially since I didn’t get to make it, my body did.
Her loving nature is very apparent, but Felicia is also hilarious. She uses laughter to make Alala's clients feel comfortable while they're here. While talking to me about her troubled hips, she was steadily making jokes and prompting genuine belly laughs. She shared with me a moment last year that showed her that Alala was definitely the right move for her. ‘We had a customer come in last year who had had her surgery six weeks earlier. She was ready to get fitted for her bras and breast prostheses. When she walked in our door she looked a little nervous and she had her coat pulled together as if she was embarrassed by the way that she looked. When she came in to give me her information, she whispered to me that she'd just had her surgery and she was ready to get her breast forms and bra because she'd had a double mastectomy. I asked her why she was whispering because today was a good day…she was getting her boobies! She laughed and told me she needed that. Then tears started to roll down her cheeks. I came around the desk and gave her a hug, saying, 'Baby, it's okay. When you come out, you're gonna be like 'Dang, look what I got!' and she laughed again. She admitted to me that she felt so mutilated but I assured her that she wasn't, she was just getting new boobs that she didn't have to carry around every day, and she laughed again. After she got fitted for her bras and breasts, she came out smiling from ear to ear like someone had given her new life. I jumped up and gave her a big hug, and we twirled in the doorway like two big kids. Seeing the difference between the way she walked in and the way she left makes it all worth it.’ Between all of her jokes and laughter is a woman who truly loves her job at Alala and will do anything she can to make someone smile. She has me laughing every time I'm in the office, and I get to see first-hand how she gives life back to these women through cracking a smile or giving a hug. It's true; you never know what someone is going through or how she could be feeling. Sometimes a smile is all it takes, and Felicia gives out plenty of those.