Student’s medical career began at home
Tech School teen got started caring for severely disabled brother
FCTS student Megan Doull uses a lift to move her special needs brother Troy, 13, in their Colrain home.
FCTS Student Megan Doull cares for her 13 year old brother Troy at their Colrain home using a feeding tube.
Megan Doull, 17, of Colrain
COLRAIN — Megan Doull has been helping to care for her younger brother since both were small children.
Now a high school student nearing graduation, she is in the unusual position of doing so professionally.
Troy was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome or 4p minus, a rare disorder that in his case manifests as severe mental and physical disability.
Megan, 17, said she began helping her parents care for Troy when she was about 7; the siblings are separated by four years and it wasn’t until Troy was three that he was home from the hospital on a regular basis.
Laura Doull, mother of the two, counts further into the past.
“Four years old and she was quizzing the nurses,” Laura Doull said.
Laura remembers Megan, hands on hips, demanding of a nurse whether she knew how to take care of Troy.
“She was almost too concerned with her brother,” Laura Doull said. “So we had to keep her busy and make her stay a kid.”
That began with ballet then gymnastics, and busy now describes Megan well.
A senior in the health technology program at the Franklin County Technical School, Doull is a full-time student, president of FCTS National Honor Society chapter, attends sports practices into the evening every season, participates in clubs, is a student teacher with the school’s pre-employment program — an extended program for special-needs students — and works part-time as a personal care assistant for her brother.
While she has essentially done the job for years, it wasn’t until she turned 16 that she could be hired as a PCA and certified to administer his medications.
Laura is allotted a certain number of registered nurse and PCA hours through a state program, so, knowing her daughter could do the job, she hired her when she reached the requisite age.
Megan estimates she officially works about 20 hours per week, keeping him occupied — he likes music, television and flowers — administering his medications, changing, bathing and feeding him, an hour-long process of monitoring a machine with a feeding tube into his stomach.
While the work is essentially the same, Megan admits being paid for her time does take the edge off some of the more monotonous aspects of caring for Troy.
“When I was watching him without getting paid, it wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t too long but it was — it was always kind of annoying to have to wait for his feeds to be done before I could go somewhere; it becomes an obstacle that none of my friends ever had to deal with,” she said.
Troy lives in what his family call his own world, spending his days in the living room at the center of their Colrain home, with the television, toys, music, a dog and a cat.
“His challenges can be hard but I don’t think I would change him now if I had a chance,” Megan said.
Growing up with Troy exposed Megan to the concept of mortality at an early age.
Laura said when Troy was born doctors put his life expectancy at one year.
“Every day after that’s a blessing, and we got 12 extra years, so it’s really all about how you think about it,” Laura said. “Now they’re saying 15, but then they can’t really say anything because his lungs are stronger and he hasn’t been seizing.”
“I knew he was not going to live long, and when I was younger I knew he was going to die.” Laura said. “Now I don’t know, I know it’s going to happen, I can’t prevent it but I’m just going to enjoy the time I have here with him now.”
Megan left the Mohawk Trail Regional School for FCTS because her friends were applying and she figured she could always go back to Mohawk. After the usual sampling of programs she narrowed her choices to plumbing or health, chose health and hasn’t regretted either choice.
The choice of health care was influenced by her experience caring for her brother, she said, as well as her aptitude for that career.
“I already have experience dealing with things that a lot of people get queasy with like vomit and all that so I can handle that, and just being patient is the biggest key,” Megan said. “I learned patience very well from him because obviously he’s not going to do what I say, so I have to be patient with him and go with what he does.”
To patience, Megan has added the certified nursing assistant or CNA designation through the school and is currently working toward Emergency Medical Technician certification with a course taught at the school by a Greenfield Community College instructor.
With only the CNA credentials Megan sees money and opportunity, and plans to further her career after graduation by becoming a registered nurse and eventually a nurse practitioner, hoping to build her resume, gain experience and pay for higher education with a two-year enlistment in the Air Force as a flight nurse.
You can reach Chris Curtis at:
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