I’ve met some incredible people who have become my dear friends and my greatest supports during my pain journey. One of whom I often rave about is the wonderful John Quintner, Consultant Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine. You’ve seen him battle beside me publicly on social media. Not only helping me with my comprehension and study of chronic pain, John has also helped me through the tangled forest of Workers Compensation. He now advocates to expose the many pitfalls for injured workers in the various Australian Worker’s Compensation systems.
In supporting my unequal struggle with the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA) he has witnessed what it takes to survive being in the system. As if his support isn’t enough, he now honours me by nominating me for a VWA Heath and Safety Award.
Soula, with your permission I have just nominated you for a Victorian WorkCover Authority Award in recognition of your long and arduous struggle against all odds to return to work. Whether or not the nomination is successful, I want you to know that in my opinion and in that of the other referees, Professor Stephen Gibson & Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, you are most deserving of such recognition. In addition to your return to work, you have performed an important role in pain education as an advocate for sufferers of this distressing condition (pudendal neuralgia). Your ability to smile and to be creative in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to many pain sufferers around the world. I wish you the best of luck!
Basically, it’s about this:
Worker Return to Work Achievement. Tell us their story!
This category recognises a worker’s outstanding achievements in returning to work following a workplace injury.
Nominating a person, group or initiative is easy! All you need to do is tell us the nominee’s achievements by following the prompt questions – tell us what the person/business/group did, why they did it, and how it had a positive impact on their workplace.
I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but after experiencing the VWA culture for 7 years now, I’m pretty sure the nomination will be rejected for some paltry reason/s based on my pending application for part payments of compensation. It’s been over a year since I submitted that application, so they are obviously struggling to come to terms with the fact that I attempted a return to work. Accepting a nomination for someone they have not been supporting in their return to work would be hard to imagine. But I live in the hope that has sustained me so far – that of a successful outcome.
(Update July 22, 2014. Nomination accepted)
Nomination as submitted by John Quintner and supported by Professor Stephen Gibson and Rosemary McKenzie Ferguson:
Soula and her husband Theo run their own business in art and graphic design, providing creative solutions to their clients. Her injury has had a major impact upon their lives together, as well as upon their business. She has consulted many health professionals and has been given a large variety of opinions, investigations and treatment procedures.
Describe your job prior to your injury.
Prior to her injury she and her husband ran a highly successful business. Soula was also a prolific artist in her own right. She was very energetic and a great support to her family and friends.
How were you injured and what was your injury?
Soula fell onto her sacrum when a fit ball upon which she was seated burst. Her injury was extremely difficult to diagnose but after some considerable time her pelvic pain was ascribed to an injury to her pudendal nerve – pudendal neuralgia. The insertion of a pelvic nerve stimulator was a turning point in her rehabilitation. She is still quite disabled and requires regular medication for pain relief.
Describe the job they do now (including employer if different).
For the past 12 months Soula has been attempting a gradual return to work within her physical capacity and has reached 9 hours per week. She has had to overcome many physical difficulties in terms of her home and work environments. Soula is still engaged in art and design work. Since her injury she has taken on an important advocacy role for people suffering from pudendal neuralgia.
What were the hardest and best things about returning to work?
The hardest thing was the lack of support from her WorkCover-appointed Agent, who placed many obstacles in her path and has refused to pay her any compensation for the past 12 months. Soula has been examined by two medical assessment panels and has found the Conciliation process to be unhelpful. The Ombudsman has been approached for assistance. The best things have been her ability to retain a sense of humour, to remain creative and positive in the face of adversity and to provide inspiration to many pain sufferers around the world.
What do you think helped you most to return to work and get your life back?
The support of her husband and family, as well as her many friends in the art world and in the world of pain management. Last year, with the support of a pharmaceutical company and members of the Australian Pain Society, Soula addressed a meeting in Sydney of over 160 pain specialists. The text of her address to this meeting is posted on her website. She has also taken part in an advertisement to raise research funds for the Faculty of Pain Medicine, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. Soula has become an advocate for sufferers of pelvic pain conditions.
What advice would you give other injured workers?
The many injured workers and fellow pain sufferers who follow her web-log have benefited from reading about her quite varied experiences whilst in the WorkCover system. She found the system to be decidedly unfriendly to women with undiagnosed persistent pain but she has counselled them not to lose hope. For those who are faced with her situation, her advice to other injured workers is not to declare a work capacity,
View my nomination at www.healthandsafetyawards.vwa.vic.gov.au/browse-entries/entries/the-hurting-strings