Rehabilitation services commission chairwoman is former client
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Monday, November 26, 2012
11/26/12 at 6:13 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A surgery at age 16 altered Lynda Collins' path through life.
Now, the 61-year-old serves as the first woman, first American Indian and first retired Department of Rehabilitation Services employee elected to lead the Oklahoma Commission for Rehabilitation Services.
The Mannford grandmother is also a former client of the agency she now oversees.
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services provides vocational rehabilitation, employment, residential and outreach education programs and determines medical eligibility for disability benefits for 87,500 Oklahomans each year.
During an operation to remove her appendix, doctors found a large tumor. They removed the then-teen's colon and several feet of intestine.
"It is almost where it just destroys the digestive system," Collins said. "It changes everything. I weighed 93 pounds when I left the hospital. My immune system was shot. I still fight it. I fight it every day."
Collins said she didn't know if she was going to live or die and made a bargain with God - Let me live and I will pay you back.
"I have tried every day as far as my living to do that," she said.
Her high school counselor referred her to the Department of Rehabilitation Services, where she began a journey.
The agency helped her with college tuition. She received a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology and went on to earn a master's in psychology with a specialization in vocational rehabilitation counseling.
She went to work for the Department of Rehabilitation Services as a counselor, working her way up to supervisor, field coordinator and then retiring as an administrator.
She spent 33 years with the agency before retiring in 2005.
Former co-worker Beverly Goeders, a vocational rehabilitation specialist, describes Collins as a caring person who remembers details.
"She was one of these people who was made for that job," Goeders said.
Collins now works part-time as a case manager with DaySpring of Tulsa.
"To me, it was extremely rewarding, but it is frustrating," Collins said. "You have a lot of issues to deal with, especially adults with an onset disability who have a hard time coping with what has happened."
She said her biggest reward is when a client no longer needs her help.
"That is the best compliment a counselor can receive," Collins said. "You have helped someone rebuild their life and start over. You can't get much more rewarding than that."
Original Print Headline: A onetime client leads rehab panel
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465