Posted on March 22, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Elizabeth

Back to Work after TBI: Elizabeth Part Four

As often happens, the employer sent Elizabeth back to work after TBI on a different job, even though she wasn’t ready to return to her previous job. There are significant incentives in the workers comp system to do this, get the employee back to work after TBI, as it is thought that it will defeat a claim for permanent total disability. As long as the employer is paying the injured person, there can be no claim for permanent wage loss.

Sometimes going back to work after TBI, even if premature, can be a good step in recovery, because it continues the cognitive challenge, at a time when therapy is being limited. But it does come with risks – of another injury, another head injury.

Elizabeth’s Experience with Going Back to Work After TBI

I went back to work and, but I wasn’t doing my job, I was doing an easier job. I knew I couldn’t do the job I used to be able to do. They asked if I wanted it, but my doctors and I too know I can’t, I can’t do that anymore. And I was fine with that, and I knew I didn’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to hurt anybody else, and so I was fine going back as a line worker they call it and that was good for me. It was kind of fun starting all over. It was like I was learning all over.

I was packing boxes and working with cheese, but I wasn’t, I couldn’t lift since my first accident, I cannot lift over my head. I can only do things certain ways because of the dizziness that it caused. I was doing well. And I understood it and I knew that, and so I was just doing the lighter work for me that I could and trying to communicate with people and try to understand things like I normally did. And I was doing good, and then I slipped and fell again and that kind of made everything go downhill.


Learning a new job came with difficulties when Elizabeth went back to work after TBI:

Certain places, certain lines you were on to measure the cheese, pack it in the boxes, certain skids, how you had to put the boxes, and for me with my brain injury it comes down so fast on certain machines the cheese just kind of flies right by you, and you have to be able to pick it up and weigh it up and do things like that. And so it was, it was frustrating. I mean, I used to be able to handle stuff like that without a problem, and coming back for the first time everything was kind of hard. I felt like I couldn’t keep up or I wasn’t fast enough.

It went by fast, but actually it was okay. It was like starting all over again, and it was kind of fun trying to, it was fun trying to learn things again and trying, trying to understand, and it’s okay to laugh. It’s okay not to give up, and that’s what I was doing.

Even though Elizabeth’s second injury happened far outside the time frame when she went back to work after TBI where we would typically think of the second impact as being potentially dangerous – in Elizabeth’s case, it was one blow too many.

With that second accident it was a lot harder. The second time that I fell, instead of listening to someone and trying to understand it, I don’t get it in my head right and sometimes I lose it. I cry, I get upset, I don’t understand what they said.

I was getting better on the first. I was able to – it took a little while. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of work to listen and understand people, and instead of seeing something that you normally could laugh at, I would cry or get upset. It would scare me. Things used to scare me terribly, and then I was able to handle it.

While Elizabeth’s second injury happened a while after going back to work after TBI, the consequences were much more severe.  We continue in our next part to talk about the risks that were involved with being on the job she was given.

For more on the Second Impact Syndrome, click here.

Next Part Five – Unstable Balance Creates Serious Risk of Further Injury.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447