A world away from home, Jonas gets back from traumatic injury

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Alone and over 12,000 kilometres away from his family in Zambia, the last thing Jonas Mukuka wanted was to suffer multiple foot fractures in a work incident that required extensive surgeries.

Yet with positive support and empathy from his employer, Hastings Deering and work colleagues, and a whatever-it-takes attitude to return to work, Jonas got back to work on suitable duties six weeks after his accident in December 2014.

A boilermaker by trade, Jonas secured a job with Hastings Deering on a 457 visa. While cutting a 200 kilogram underground shearer travel rack segment using oxygen/fuel equipment, Jonas suffered multiple right foot fractures when the rack segment fell from his workbench.

Jonas was immediately transported by ambulance to the Mackay Base Hospital where he underwent surgery. The result—four pins inserted in each toe of his right foot, reduction surgery to reset the fracture and repairs to lacerations.

Two months later, Jonas’s pins were removed and with the aid of a moonboot he started a major rehabilitation program involving physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.

During his rehabilitation, Hastings Deering Injury Management Advisor, Jan Paton maintained regular contact with Jonas. With a language barrier and with no family to support Jonas, Jan knew his recovery would be emotionally and physically taxing.

Truly committed to his rehabilitation, Jan attended medical appointments as needed, to not only help with correct administration of medication, but also to comfort and reassure Jonas that he wasn’t alone in his rehabilitation journey.

‘Early intervention and ensuring people are switched on and right to start work is important in a worker’s recovery,’ Jan said.

Approximately eight weeks after his injury, Jonas returned to work on light office duties. But just when life was looking rosy, Jonas started experiencing pain and swelling in his foot. He was referred for surgery in March 2015 where his fourth and fifth metatarsals were realigned and wired following a bone graft taken from his heel.

By the end of April 2015, Jonas’s wires were surgically removed and he gradually progressed from walking with crutches and a moonboot to wearing joggers and performing light office duties.

Approximately five months after his workplace incident, Jonas was able to weight bear and wear steel capped boots back in the workshop.

Separated from his family, Jonas clearly relished the chance to get back to a supportive workshop environment and the friendship of his workmates, observed Jan.

‘I think it’s important to be empathetic—an injury is not something that anyone enjoys. So I take the time and try to understand what the injured worker is going through and help where I can.

‘Being a good listener, staying focussed on the end goal and reinforcing the benefits of work with your injured worker can really help them stay on track during their claim,' she said.

Recovery was not all smooth sailing for Jonas though. He experienced psychological impacts including flashbacks to the injury, had difficulty sleeping and was concerned about his family back in Zambia.

WorkCover Queensland Customer Advisor, Sharon Moller supported Jonas during these dark times, recommending referrals to Hastings Deering’s Employer Assistance Program as well as adjustment counselling. Sharon worked closely with Jan to ensure Jonas got the help he needed.

‘Knowing that I could speak to someone for psychological reasons and that people didn’t blame me or look at me differently was a huge relief’, Jonas said.

For Jan, Jonas’s rehabilitation would have not have been as successful without his motivation to return to work and willingness to ask for help when he was struggling.

‘Jonas would discuss any concerns he had with me and in turn I would relay this to the doctors and providers.

‘His rehabilitation and early return to work was greatly enhanced by the commitment of all parties,’ Jan said.

Jonas is quick to express his appreciation to Jan and Sharon for their tireless efforts and the support of Hastings Deering and WorkCover.

‘My family and I are very thankful for all the help I’ve received in getting back to work. Being from overseas, having the support of my employer and work colleagues in the workshop and knowing that they were happy to have me back, made me want to get back to work faster,’ Jonas said.

‘Getting back to work is an important step in recovering from an injury and Jan has been a big influence in Jonas’s recovery,’ Sharon said.

‘Jan has gone above and beyond—visiting him after hours and ensuring he had what he needed to help in his rehabilitation.

‘She even helped him reassure his family back in Zambia that he was ok and being looked after by sending updates and photos to his wife and children,’ Sharon added.

‘It’s no wonder Jan received a Commended Award at the 2015 Safe Work and Return to Work Awards’, Sharon said.

Postscript

The 2015 Safe Work and Return to Work Awards recognise outstanding achievements in work health and safety, and return to work.

Hastings Deering Injury Management Advisor, Jan Paton received a Commended Award in the category of Rehabilitation and Return to Work Coordinator Achievement Award.

WorkCover Queensland congratulates Jan and Hastings Deering on their achievements and commitment to strengthening the return to work culture in Queensland.

Visit our website for more information on the 2015 Safe Work and Return to Work Awards.

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Jonas Mukuka with Hastings Deering Injury Management Advisor, Jan Paton.

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Left to right: Glen Rokic, Hastings Deering Service Manager Expanded Mining Products, Jonas Mukuka and Jan Paton

Last updated
27 October 2015