Women That Soar was proud to sit with Dr. Cortney Baker as we honor her through all of her trials and tribulations. She is truly a Woman That Soars and one of the most inspirational stories we’ve heard.
SOARING WITH CORTNEY BAKER
I think I officially began my adult journey when I was 12. My only sibling, my sister who was 4 years older than I, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I watched her deteriorate quickly right in front of my eyes. She had such a progressive form of the disease that, when she was 18, she had difficulty walking, talking, feeding, and bathing herself. Because our parents were divorced and we were shuffled back and forth between visitation schedules, we were each other’s constants. Kim’s doctors had told us that by her 21st birthday that she would either be bedridden or in a wheelchair for life. I helped take care of her on her journey until she died suddenly of a heart defect when she was 20. It was one month after my 16th birthday.
When I was 18 I found myself in a broken relationship with a baby on the way. I got pregnant; he left. My father, who had raised me up until that point, told me that if I was going to keep the baby that I couldn’t raise the child in his home. I had an adoptive family picked out for my son, but once I felt him move, I knew that I couldn’t go through with the adoption. I moved in with my mom and her new husband and continued in my double-shift job of waiting tables to make ends meet. I turned 19 in September and got a rocking chair for my birthday. I had my son, Landon, two months later.
Fast forward through a few years, a failed marriage and a move out of state where I didn’t know a soul. With my beautiful son in tow and now my closest companion, I enrolled in junior college and then began attending the local university. It wasn’t easy, to say the least, but I completed my Master’s degree in communication disorders and sciences in 2001.
In 2003, at the age of 28, with a brand new marriage and a new baby on the way, I started my own pediatric home healthcare agency in Dallas as the solo therapist with 10 patients, who were willing to take a chance on me. Today KidsCare Therapy is operational throughout the state of Texas and I have the blessing of providing services to over 2200 patients and help support nearly 300 employees.
Life hasn’t been easy. While I had certainly accomplished a lot, there would be some really trying times ahead of me that would cause me to suffer from a lack of self-confidence in my abilities and decisions, both personally and professionally. In 2005 I had a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in my lungs. Then, on September 18, 2012, at the age of 37, I suffered a stroke in two places while at home. As a result, I underwent a 7 hour brain surgery. I had just begun the doctoral program for Organizational Leadership at Pepperdine University that semester, so I took the remainder of fall 2012 off to heal. Then, in January 2013 I restarted the program and completed my dissertation in December 2015.
To identify my proudest moment to this point, I think that’s hard to say. I was so proud at my wedding, to know that I was marrying my best friend and the love of my life. I was also so proud when I had both of my daughters. And then I was such a proud mom when my son graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. I think overall, my absolute proudest moment on a personal level was when I finished my doctoral journey. My dissertation was called “Women Leaders in Healthcare: Going Beyond the Glass Ceiling.” I met some incredible women who really opened their hearts and lives to me to explain what challenges they had been on in their journey. So many of them described how their confidence had held them back. All I could say was, “ME TOO!”
The one thing I can speak to about my confidence, is that I am where I am because I never gave up. I have had adversity, as we all do, from the time I was 4 and my parents divorced. I also have such an immense faith that has seen me through so many of the darkest days of my life, especially when dealing with my sister’s death and a failed first marriage. Without my faith and belief in the fact that I am a child of God, I would have probably folded a long time ago. Even after overcoming my stroke and working so hard to achieve greater success than I could ever imagine, I suffered a horrible depression. I was worried about ever being able to be whole and well again. But by the grace of God, I am 99% restored. So thankful for everyday miracles that happen to ordinary people like me.
I am asked over and over again how I persevered, even through the darkest times… and for me, or anyone really, it is the choice to believe in two things. First, you have to have a mindset where you realize that your challenges and obstacles are not roadblocks that have the capacity to stop you dead in your tracks. But, and without a doubt, you have to choose to look at your struggles as hurdles; and we can all overcome hurdles, if we’re open to it. Second, I believe we all have a reason to exist. Our lives have purpose and meaning, and we define that meaning daily in every thought, word, action, and choice. I chose to look at my hurdles and figure out how I could jump higher rather than let them convince me to pack up and quit the race.
For the last two years I was honored to be named a finalist for Texas Business Women of the Year. Not too bad for what the world saw as a single teen mom, on Medicaid and food stamps, who had no direction other than waiting tables.
~ Cortney Baker, Ed.D., M.S., CCC/SLP
CEO/Owner, KidsCare Therapy and Baker Management Group