GODFREY - Amy Jun discovered her path in Occupational Therapy at Lewis and Clark Community College. When her father later suffered a major stroke, she was able to use what he learned to help him recover and transition into his new life.

Jun graduated from L&C in 1999 with an Associate in Science degree. She planned to transfer to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) to pursue elementary education, but life took her in a different direction. OTA Alumna Amy Jun, her father William ‘Buzz’ Smith and occupational therapist Breanne Edwards. Photo by Jared Smilack/L&C Markteting & PR

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Years later, as a single mother to three children, Jun found herself back at L&C. She found a new passion in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program and graduated in 2012.

“I fell in love with occupational therapy and the vision of helping people with their daily lives during my time at L&C,” Jun said.

Jun never pictured herself working in the medical field but is eternally grateful that she does. She always wanted to be a teacher, which in a unique way, is what she does.

Jun teaches patients how to work around deficits related to recent hospital stays so they can return home and live their best lives.

Occupational therapy assistants provide skilled treatments for patients, helping them develop the skills needed to participate in all their daily occupations or activities.

Sometimes, it includes changing how they do things, building strength, learning how to adapt to the environment, using special equipment and teaching a family member or caregiver how to help them. The goal is to help patients become independent and comfortable at home.

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Last year, Jun's father, William (or Buzz to those who know him), had a major stroke. Jun said he had always been independent and never needed assistance with anything. He was always the one helping others, solving problems and living his best retired life. He spent 73 days in the hospital before going home.

Jun, who works with stroke survivors every day, said it was hard to watch her loved one go through what her patients deal with.

Because of Jun's education and experience, she could advocate for her dad in each setting during those 73 days. She could envision his progress with therapy, even on the hard days. Jun’s father had OT in the ICU, long-term care, inpatient rehab, home health and outpatient rehab. Because of her training, Jun could explain to her family what they were focusing on and how it would help him get home.

Jun worked with her dad daily, in addition to his scheduled therapy, even when he didn't know that's what she was doing. She would push him to do his best in each setting. She showed her mom and sister how to position him or cue him to encourage him to participate in simple tasks like washing his face, brushing his teeth, and putting his army hat on as a proud veteran.

Jun advocated for him to get into rehab, and he worked very hard every day. She made recommendations for her mom to prepare to take him home and accommodate their new life. He needed to use a wheelchair at home, and her mom had to learn how to assist him. He is home now and continues to need assistance with all his daily occupations (activities), and through the help of therapy, he and Jun's mom have made changes to live a simpler life.

"I love my career, and I know my parents have a new understanding of and respect for what I do," Jun said. “They would tell you therapists are heroes, referring to all therapies (occupational, physical, and speech), but they have a special place in their hearts for OTs.”

Jun's dad tells everyone, "Occupational therapy gave me back my life." Jun said she couldn't have said it better herself.

"L&C has a fantastic OTA program, and I wouldn't be the therapy practitioner I am today had I not gone through it," Jun said. According to Jun, going to L&C and applying for the OTA program, although challenging, was the smartest move she ever made and she is proud of her accomplishments.

OTA classes are enrolling now for Fall 2024. To learn more about the program, visit www.lc.edu/academic-programs/degrees-certificates/occupational-therapy-assistant.html, or apply now at apply now at www.lc.edu/admissions. Contact the Enrollment Center at (618) 468-2222 to get started.

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