Life After Chase: Kate Keator

How Life Can Change in a Second:
Coping with Traumatic Brain Injury

Many of you will recall Kate (Kathleen) Keator Pauker as a strong, intelligent and accomplished woman. In 1997 Kate’s life completely changed from that of a successful career woman, wife, mother and international traveler. She now lives in Woodstock, NY, with her 87-year-old mother.

Kate received her BS in International Affairs from the University of Vermont, where she also studied Mandarin. After graduation she continued to study Chinese at Wellesley for one year. She then went on to receive a Masters of International Affairs in 1979 from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Chase recruited her In 1980 to participate in the Chase credit training program. She completed the program in 1981. At a time when there were far fewer women in banking, Kate was transferred to Hong Kong to teach credit training to Asian nationals. From there she was sent to Singapore for two years, where she was an account officer for institutional accounts. She then relocated to New York City and lived in Tribeca for 12 years. After 10 years at Chase, Kate was recruited by Bankers Trust to work in the Corporate Bank. In 1991, she married and moved with her husband, Jordan Pauker, to Colts Neck, NJ, where they had a daughter named Hannah, born on September 8, 1995.  Below, Kate tells what happened next.

To my Chase friends and colleagues:

In February 1997, I wanted to introduce my 2½-year-old daughter, Hannah, to the new young thoroughbred horse I had recently purchased. I wanted to introduce Hannah to the responsibilities of being a horse owner, including cleaning the stall, grooming her, etc. We were in the paddock area, which is a small fenced area where horses can graze during the day. We were only there for a few minutes.  Following that I have no recollection of what happened, but apparently Hannah cried out, “Bombay kicked Mommy!” She cried out again, “Bombay is eating mummy!" In fact, there was so much blood that the horse was just licking the blood from my head! Luckily for me, the people in the barn called 911 and, within minutes, the ambulance and EMT people were there to take me to the Jersey Shore Medical Center to undergo open brain surgery.

I have told my daughter Hannah many times that she saved my life! As a two-year-old, Hannah wasn’t able to identify that Bombay was licking the blood off my head. Hannah is now almost 15 years old and has no memory of this incident. I am certainly glad for that!

Unfortunately, I was comatose for seven weeks, even after my surgery. Following surgery and the release from the hospital, I underwent a three-to-five year cognitive rehabilitation program. I also had speech rehabilitation and occupational rehabilitation. The doctors told me I could never drive again or live by myself. I have lost much of the ability to exercise sound judgment and some of my hearing is gone. As part of traumatic brain injury, short-term memory is often compromised, but my long-term memory is still intact. That is why I can still maintain my fluency in Chinese.

As a result of my accident, I have not been able to rejoin the corporate world; nor was I was awarded custody of my daughter. After my divorce in 2003, I moved in with my mother in upstate New York. For the past few years, I have continued to see many doctors and have been on numerous medications. I have continued to visit my daughter every two weeks and telephone her nightly. In spite of how my life has changed, I still speak fluent Chinese and do various types of volunteer work, swimming, yoga, etc. I am fortunate to be living with my mother. Together we do the best we can with the help of local neighbors and friends.

I have lost touch with so many of my friends at Chase since my accident and perhaps it is because they don’t understand traumatic brain injury. I hope that this letter will help me reconnect with my former friends and colleagues. Please contact the Chase Alumni Association if you are interested in contacting me. I would love to hear from you.