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Desire overcomes physical and emotional challenges

When a worker has a strong desire to continue down their chosen career path, sometimes a serious injury is just a small bump in the road, rather than a complete road block.

Here we share the story of a young man, who sustained a serious injury to his right dominant hand while operating a stamping press.

The injured workers' hand became caught underneath the press, crushing his hand. Unfortunately, he had his little finger and index finger amputated and skin grafts to the palm of the hand. He also had further surgery on the two remaining fingers.

Gradual return to work

To get back into the workplace after his surgeries, he attended his work place for lunch a couple of times during that next week, and then returned back to work the week after for a couple of hours three days a week. His duties consisted of computer design work and TAFE modules. He stated that he was having some difficulty being around the machines, so his psychologist then attended the place of employment to assist with his return to work.

After attending a session with the worker and the hand therapist, the psychologist commented that she was unsure if the worker would have the capacity to complete the apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker.

WorkCover Customer Advisor Carolina Hepplewhite said she spoke with the worker and his mother regarding this and asked him to think of alternative career paths.

“A work site visit was set up with an occupational therapist, psychologist, employer, the worker, his mum and I to see if he had the capacity to complete the practical side of his apprenticeship.”

“The occupational therapist assessed the manual handling duties that the worker would have to complete and determined that there was no reason for him not to be able to complete his apprenticeship in the long term,” she said.

Focusing on the end goal

Three months after the injury, the young man had received several surgeries and was attending hand therapy three times per week, seeing a psychologist once per week and going to work the rest of the time.

The worker had also attended TAFE to complete other modules.

Carolina said initially he was having some problems with adjustment to injury, such as not wanting to look at his deformed hand, and not wanting to do the rehabilitation exercises. He was also unable to sleep and would at times get angry and teary.

However, with assistance and early intervention from the psychologist and occupational therapist and a very return to work focused employer, a successful outcome was achieved for the worker.

He has stayed strong on his chosen career path and returned to work in his normal role as an apprentice sheet metal worker.

For more information on rehabilitation and return to work and the health benefits of work, please contact us on 1300 362 128.