So she worked to become what that billboard represented to her: order, calm, and ultimately, inspiration. Again, she turned to Grady. “Let me call back and see if they're hiring,” she says, recalling how she found her first job in several years. “And they hired me — in this room that we're in now, in the family waiting room.” There, as families wait for their loved ones, she encourages them. “I embrace them. I make sure they're comfortable. I recite poetry. Whatever they need.”
It isn’t surprising that Grady chose to hire Tracie. Like so many essential hospitals, Grady is part of its community, through and through. Outside, it is a well-recognized part of the downtown Atlanta skyline. It even lends its name to local traffic reporters covering “the Grady Curve,” where Atlanta’s looping Downtown Connector swings wide around the building.
Essential hospitals are some of the largest employers in their communities, and Grady is no exception. Not only does this drive local jobs and economies, but it also creates immediate empathy between patient and provider.
Inside, Grady mirrors the community it serves. Nurses who were once Grady babies. Administrators who sought treatment in Grady’s cancer center. The staff are the patients. Essential hospitals are some of the largest employers in their communities, and Grady is no exception. Not only does this drive local jobs and economies, but it also creates immediate empathy between patient and provider. It’s good for the patients. It’s good for the staff.
“At first I couldn't talk about [the] experience,” Tracie says of her stroke. “But when I started working here and I became a part of this unit, my heart began to go out to the people that come in here. They're hurting, and they're in pain, and they're believing … for their loved one to live. Whatever I can give them, to make it easier for them ... When they hear my story, it may be a totally different situation, but when they hear my story, they're inspired.” Adds Frankel, “She's had the experience, she knows what it's like, and I think that that comforts people in a way that no doctor ever could.”
For Nogueira, seeing Tracie at work is a reward and sometimes, a necessary inspiration. “She's so full of life and energy,” he says. “Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad days, and when you see somebody like her doing so well, it's very rewarding and gives us more energy to keep doing what we are doing.”
And here again, the relationship reciprocates. “I had an appointment [with Dr. Nogueira] during the time I was coming to interview for this position,” Tracie explains. “He takes pride in what he does. He has faith and he believes in what he’s doing. I wanted that type of passion in my job.” Inspired by Nogueira to land her job, Tracie continues to be invigorated by those around her at Grady. “Everybody is like family, and they began to encourage me and it was just like building me up from everything that was taken and destroyed inside me from all that stress. It just built me back up, coming here.”
The poetry she had been writing for years and now reciting to stroke families became a book – 31 Days of Live Inspiration. And her stage in the stroke center’s family waiting room became churches and shelters and conferences and workshops across the country, where she can be found reciting poetry, sharing her experience as a stroke survivor, and helping people understand the symptoms of stroke. And yet, like the doctor who inspired her, she remains ever humble, ever grateful, for the chance.
Coming home from a speaking engagement in California, Tracie’s car breaks down. “Here I am, lugging my bags to get on the bus. I'm tired, I’ve been on a plane all night. [And] I look up and see my picture.” With her phone dead, Tracie nabs a nearby police officer and asks him to snap it for her. Staring at the larger than life image of Tracie covering a wall in Atlanta’s bohemian Little Five Points district, the office responds, “You know what, I thought that was an actor.” “No,” Tracie says, “I'm a stroke survivor. I'm a stroke thriver.”