Jul 03, 2024

Sammy’s long road to recovery led to the perfect destination

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Sammy struggled to get back to work after an injury, but she finally found support to regain control of her career. [Supplied]

After finding herself on the receiving end of a nasty collision in peak hour traffic, Samantha ‘Sammy’ Wardale saw her career put on hold as she tackled the challenging task of long-term recovery from severe whiplash. 

Sammy’s situation was worsened by the fact she worked in a physically demanding job, all while being told she had to rest by her doctor.

“I was driving home from work on the highway on a rainy day. I braked, but the car behind me didn’t. The impact happened at around 40-60 km an hour, jolting me forward and causing bruises from the seatbelt on my shoulder and chest. I went to the hospital, where the injury was classified as whiplash,” Sammy told HelloCare. 

“Unfortunately, the pain persisted and even intensified, becoming more sharp and severe when I moved. An ultrasound revealed a partial thickness tear in my shoulder. While surgery wasn’t deemed necessary, I was prescribed physiotherapy.”

Despite a year’s worth of physiotherapy – thankfully supported under WorkCover, Sammy’s pain didn’t improve. This meant she was struggling to get back to work all while fighting for custody of her young daughter. 

It’s a balancing act that’s familiar to many parents, whether it’s a situation they have personally experienced or one a friend or family member is going through. Sammy said she felt as though everything was stacked against her.

“My career didn’t change but was put on hold because I could no longer do manual labour. Initially, I sought alternative employment because I wasn’t supported in my role and my injury wasn’t taken seriously during return-to-work attempts,” she added. 

Once again, this is a familiar scene in settings like aged care where repetitive motions and physical tasks can unfortunately result in workplace injuries. And while many providers are supportive of staff, some are not, leaving workers in an uncomfortable position about their next move.

Sammy ultimately found support through a disability employment services provider – that also offers help to those with an injury or health condition – called AimBig. She said they helped her to regain confidence and return to her passion with a new employer.

Now working at a local childcare centre, Kids Capers, Sammy is proud to be in an incredibly supportive environment where training, mentoring and educational opportunities are prioritised. 

There are still challenges, though, but workplace flexibility is key for Sammy who said, “Balancing work to cover rent, bills, and still finding quality time for my daughter is challenging. I’m grateful that my employer, Kids Capers, considers my situation as a single mum.

“My boss places a blank roster on the table and asks us to fill in the shifts we want. This flexibility makes it easier to plan and ensures I often get the shifts I need.”

Sammy said she is thankful to the people who have helped her return to work after a significant injury, praising her new employer for being so open and welcoming.

She said there’s a diverse workforce on site that positively contributes to the care environment, just like we see every day in the aged care sector. 

And for those who have had negative experiences with workplace injuries and treatment by management in the past, Sammy said to take the time to find a positive environment. 

“If you’ve had bad experiences in the past, not everyone will treat you badly. You’ll never know unless you give it a shot,” she said.

“Look around at different providers; there might be a better fit for you. Finding a provider that truly supports you is crucial, not just one that ticks boxes. AimBig saw me as a person and wanted what was best for me, which made all the difference.”

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