Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A New Beginning (final thoughts)

Whenever someone hears my story the response is always the same with some differences in the wording. They always say to me, "At least you got hurt at work...You must be rich now".

If this had happened to me in almost any other state it would probably be true. Unfortunately for me, the state of Wisconsin has it's workman's compensation laws set up so that an employee can not sue their employer for an accident that happens while at work. Even if it is proven that the accident was the fault of the employer. Even though work comp pays the injured party's medical bills and a percentage of their wages while they are recovering, work comp stops paying once the person is considered "medically plateaued".

While the system usually works well for a person that is able to work again after healing, the few who are injured to the point that they are unable to work again fall through the cracks. In fact, the only recourse a person in this situation has is to try to get work comp to continue paying them the small pittance they were getting before. This is only accomplished by employing the services of an attorney and it is a very long process during which time the injured party is subjected to various interviews and doctor's appointments in an effort to prove that you are either faking, or at least not as bad off as you think. It is very humiliating, and the whole process makes you question yourself. In the end, you end up either having a hearing in which everything gets dragged through open court; or, you settle with work comp and end up with a percentage of a percentage of what you were making before you got hurt.

You see, if the ladder that broke had been purchased by my company, in other words an outside vendor, then both my employer and myself could have sued that vendor. My employer would have recouped their work comp expenses, and I could have sued for lots and lots of money. The first question my employer's work comp insurance carrier asked me was, "Where did the ladder come from?" Since Quad built the ladder themselves I was out of luck.

They (Quad) even told me that the wooden ladder was rotten and it was their fault it wasn't in better shape. Doesn't do me a darn bit of good. There was nothing I could do with the information anyway.

Once it became apparent to everyone that I couldn't work anymore (I think I was the last one to realize) I was no longer a productive employee. All of the friends that I had from work stopped contacting me because I was now just a liability and a number to the company.

I never expected flowers or anything from the company during any of my four surgeries and stays in the hospital. A card would have been nice, or any sign at all that they were sorry.

I worked for a huge company, and even though they didn't legally owe me anything, they could have made some sort of good will gesture. Everyone raves about what a great company they are to work for...Just don't get hurt badly...some wounds heal more slowly than others.

A New Beginning (part 2)

Years have passed since my accident, and time has granted perspective. Yes, it took me a good five years to come to terms with what happened to me. But, I will say this now; I would not change what happened to me back then. By becoming disabled at a young age with young children I was handed a gift. I was "forced" into becoming a stay-at-home dad while my wife went into the workforce. The gift was being able to be home and watch my two young children grow into the people they are today. I was able to form a bond with my kids that most men are not able to achieve. Sure, I had to deal with the guilt of my wife becoming the bread winner of the family, but where is it written that the man must be the sole provider? We as men put pressure on ourselves, and more often than not we judge and define ourselves by what we do for a living. My family doctor told me at the beginning of my ordeal that I needed to be careful of slipping into a depression. The reason he said was that men define themselves by what they do and if a man loses the ability to work they also lose their measuring device. It turned out to be very good advice as I battled through my own depression.

I am now able to define myself not just by my occupation (stay-at-home dad), but by the accomplishments of my family and the time we spend together. I also now feel the need to give back to others. I spend time giving back through Boy Scouts and other endeavors

It may sound hard to believe that I would not change what happened to me, but I really believe that I was handed a gift that I had to figure out for myself. It may have taken longer than some for me to figure, but it is true that "through hardship we grow stronger".