Road to recovery – Vocational program at Westmead Hospital helps Ian back to work after traumatic brain injury
Ian Watt, 61, has worked as part of the burial crew team at Castlebrook Memorial Park in Sydney for 24 years and was ‘part of the furniture’ before one day, whilst walking down the road, an accident left him with a traumatic brain injury.
After 11 days at Westmead Hospital, Ian went to live with his daughters to start his recovery, a reversal of roles as Ian had always been the one looking out for them.
The injury left long term impacts that affected his balance, memory and confidence in interacting with groups of people. After 4 months, it was clear to his family that Ian was struggling with severe depression and they encouraged him to get help.
The Westmead Brain Injury Rehabilitation Services runs the Vocational Intervention Program (VIP) as a specific service to support patients with traumatic brain injuries back into employment.
Before being referred into the program, Ian underwent a Neuropsychological Assessment and was medically cleared to commence the journey towards returning to work.
Basem Saad, an Exercise Physiologist with the health team at MAX, works with customers who have been referred to MAX through the Westmead VIP. Ian and Bas initially met together for a health interview to discuss Ian’s current health and usual work tasks in order to determine what work might look like for Ian in the future. With the assistance of InvoCare, Ian’s employer, they created a plan to help him return to work.
“We started by working out what tasks Ian could safely do” says Bas. “The two main barriers for Ian were limited balance and communicating with crowds,” he says. “As
Ian’s work capacity increased, we were gradually able to incorporate additional duties and work hours into the plan. “
By identifying strategies to help Ian remain safe at work and return to becoming a productive member of the team, Ian’s confidence improved.
Ian is grateful to his employer, to Bas and the VIP program for being able to help him return to a normal routine.
“If it wasn’t for the staff, management, workers, admin or the sales staff… just to have people to be around, to help my confidence, check on me, I don’t think I would have been able to stay at the job.
“But to have people pull up to see how I’m going, you wouldn’t believe how much better that makes me feel, to know people care,” says Ian.
Ian is thankful that his life has been able to return to as close to normal for him as possible.