Safe and timely return to work takes teamwork
STRATEGIC GOAL: Improve outcomes for safe and timely
return to work
It only took a few seconds for a workplace injury to turn Cody Ross’s life upside down and put him on a long and painful path to recovery.
In July 2013, Cody was working as a heavy equipment operator on a drilling and blasting project when a heavy piece of steel came crashing down on his hand. “It was terrifying not knowing if I lost my hand or fingers or how serious the damage was,” says Cody, who was 26 at the time, and just four months into his new job.
It would be another four years before he was ready and able to work again.
The injury crushed his fingers and severed the thumb on his left hand - and Cody is left handed. He ended up losing his thumb. Over the next three years he had 14 surgeries, including a unique transplant surgery that had been done just a few times before in Nova Scotia, all performed by Dr. Justin Paletz, who played a key role in Cody’s eventual recovery. The transplant involved removing one of his second toes and reattaching it to his injured hand to replace the missing thumb. The surgery went well and after a year of rehabilitation, his hand function improved.
But the trauma and the emotional ups and downs of recovery eventually took a toll on him and he needed therapy to help him cope. As Cody’s WCB Nova Scotia case worker, Denise Manuel was there through it all. Denise connected him with a psychologist for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and an occupational therapist who specialized in hand rehabilitation.
These professionals played a key role in Cody’s recovery too. But Denise says the secret to his success was his attitude. “Cody was optimistic about his recovery right from the beginning,” she recalls. ”He had a very traumatic injury and could have gone down a very negative road. But he put in the time and did everything he could do to rehab that hand and receive treatment for the post-traumatic stress.”
As a case manager, Denise’s role is to help injured workers get mentally, physically and emotionally fit to return to work safely. In Cody’s case, that took more than therapy and rehab, and it also took retraining.
- Implemented a concussion management pilot program, leading to better care for workers who suffer head injuries and supporting them as they recover
- Continued to build the Working to Well program, including tools and resources to support safe and timely return to work
- Developed strategies to better manage complex claims that require support beyond recovery from physical injury
- Developed new prevention and return to work resources to support the work of WCB’s service delivery teams
- Leverage improved technology to better support workers as they recover and return to work
- Expand the 'Working to Well' return-to-work support program
- Improve customer service approaches and overall customer experience
- Carefully and on a case-by-case basis, consider how medical Cannabis may be part of a treatment plan for certain workplace injuries.
Unable to return to his former job, he decided on a career in injury prevention. Denise helped him with that, too. She built a case for Cody and got approval through WCB’s Vocational Rehabilitation program to have his studies paid for. He graduated from the one-year Occupational Health and Safety program at the Nova Scotia Community College last year and started his new job as a health and safety coordinator at digital solutions company, VistaCare Communications, in December.
“I think he’s made exceptional strides and has arrived at a great place that has prepared him for whatever life throws at him,” says Denise, who wasn’t the only person to go the extra mile for Cody.
Cody’s occupational therapist Karen Landry was another dedicated member of his support team. For three years, Karen worked with him after each surgery to help him get the most function possible from his hand. But from the outset, she made it clear the extent of his recovery was up to him. “He worked so hard and had such great patience and perseverance that it worked well for him,” she says.
Karen has worked with many injured workers over the years and has learned that a successful return to work requires three things: A dedicated team, open communication and a worker who is an “active participant” in his own recovery.
As Cody looks back on how far he’s come, he’s grateful to his family and everyone else who helped him get back on his feet.
Now, he’s focused on the future and his new career helping other workers stay safe. “I’ve been through it. I’m a walking example of what can happen,” he says. “I want to try to prevent these things from happening to anyone else.”