"What does the weeks, months and years ahead hold for someone with a life-changing injury? Your goals, your career path, everything could potentially need to change."
An accident at work can turn your life upside down. Not only does it impact you physically, the emotional scope can be huge. Your sense of security, your financial concerns, your family life, even your sense of self can all be severely shaken by such a traumatic event.
Then, there’s the future. What does the weeks, months and years ahead hold for someone with a life-changing injury? Your goals, your career path, everything could potentially need to change. But, with the right plan and the right acceptance of any limitations you now deal with, there is still so much you can do.
In this article, we explore the various paths a person with a life-changing injury could choose from.
Remaining within your chosen career
While you may not be able to pursue the exact job that you had before your accident, there will likely be many other jobs within that sector that you could explore.
Take Sean Harding for example. He recounted his story to Perennial, in which an accident at work left him paralysed. A fractured neck, broken back, and damaged spinal cord were the result of an impact sustained while Sean was working on dismantling a tree. It turned his life upside down — he couldn’t even return home, as it was not equipped for a wheelchair user.
His passion for working with trees remained, and although he could not return to working as a tree surgeon, Sean still works with trees as a consultant, photographer, and campaigner for the protection of ancient trees.
Returning to work
Recovery means more than just the physical wounds mending. No matter the scale of your accident, you may very well have some mental processing to do before you can truly heal. AfterTrauma.org notes that returning to work can often be the first major challenge after recovery, as the demanding environment and poor understanding of traumatic injuries can lead many to feel that they cannot cope.
If you decide to return to your workplace, be sure to take it slow and monitor your fatigue levels. This isn’t just to do with accommodating for your injury, but for the sheer fact you may not have been at work for some time — let yourself have the time you need to ease back into it.
Speaking to your employer and keeping them up to date with how you’re getting on is very useful, even before your planned return, as it allows your employer to make any necessary adjustments to your workspace.
You should also speak to your GP regarding your return to work, as your ability to transition back into your job rests with them.
Finding a new career
It may well be that a return to your previous career is simply not possible. Depending on your injuries and your job, it may not be feasible even with necessary adjustments. Or, as an accident at work, you may have no desire to return to the same place of work. In this instance, you may choose to pursue a different role within the same sector, as outlined previously.
Alternatively, you may wish to look for an entirely new career. Phil, who survived a collision with a 25-tonne truck, had worked as a children’s therapist before the accident left him with multiple severe injuries, including an amputated leg. It took many years of rehabilitation, but Phil defied all odds and not only learnt to walk again, he learnt to run again too.
As part of his rehabilitation, Phil used creativity and writing as an outlet. His poetry, written without the original intent to publish, received glowing reviews when he eventually collected them into an e-book, then to paperback. Now, Phil has his own business, and he is a professional facilitator, coach, tutor, and writer. While he could not return to his original career, the skills and experience no doubt found a home in his newly forged career.
You may be in the rehabilitation process yourself, and if you haven’t already, seeking a creative outlet could be so beneficial to your recovery. From writing to art, crafts to animation, there are many different avenues to explore. For example, you may find it therapeutic to make hand-crafted necklaces and bracelets — if so, perhaps you could look to sell them on online stores such as Etsy?