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Positioning Injured Workers for Long-Term Success and High Quality of Life: The Story of Billy P. Amputee
After the catastrophic loss of his arms, former welder Billy P. has found an inspiring way forward, thanks in part to the workers' compensation team behind him.
Billy P. was introduced to the world of welding at the ripe age of 14, where he took on a part-time gig in the space and fell in love with the work. At 18, he started a full-time position as a welder and fabricator and spent the next 21 years in the business.
But that all changed on January 23, 2007.
"I was working as a welding shop foreman at this company," Billy explained. "We had this machine called a drywall shredder, and my boss asked me to help a coworker clean it out because it had to be on the truck by noon."
Though Billy had 10 years' worth of OSHA safety training under his belt, he had been lulled into a false sense of security by the company's poor safety culture. To clean such a machine should have required the complete shutdown of the shredder. But after observing others cleaning the machine while still operating it, Billy didn't think to hit the switch.
It would be a decision that would change the course of his life.
"I walked over and stuck a screwdriver in the machine. I was there for a second or two before getting caught. The machine took both my arms above the elbow. It almost took my life that day," said Billy.
He spent 18 days in the hospital, replaying his decision to pick up that screwdriver in the first place. He was turning 40 that year and quickly realized he could no longer do things for himself, from bathing to dressing to feeding.
"It wasn't easy," he said, to get back up from that place. But with time and the right team behind him, Billy slowly found a way to live a fulfilling life post-accident.
How a Workers' Compensation Team Creates a Path Toward Healing for Catastrophic Work Injuries
Billy was soon introduced to the workers' compensation system following his catastrophic injuries. He was fitted with prosthetics that would eventually aid him in regaining independence.
In 2012, Billy's case landed at One Call.
"One Call had a team of individuals that would assist Billy with his prosthetic requests," said Robin Hurst, prosthetic specialist at One Call. She joined Billy's team in late 2014. "When I started on the file, we streamlined everything. We now have one dedicated person at Hanger Clinic, along with the prosthetist and myself handling requests for repairs, replacements, and whatever else Billy needs."
The streamlined process makes it so Billy is never waiting for approval on his requests; he has the backup devices and components necessary when required.
"We do everything to get the information to the adjusters as quickly as possible," said Hurst.
This proactive, fast-response approach from One Call has kept Billy moving post-injury. He said he spent the first 10 years following his injury dedicated to finding his new normal. "I wanted to be in a hurry and get back to doing things as quickly as possible. But I learned really quickly that it had to be one day at a time."
It was a slow process, but one that he now sees as worth the time and effort. Billy, with help from his prosthetics, has been able to teach himself how to fish, play pool, and even weld again. He's even created a YouTube channel dedicated to demonstrating to others who have experienced such an injury how to accomplish everyday tasks.
Through his YouTube channel, Billy P. demonstrates how other amputees can use their prosthetics to perform specific tasks.
"I live by the words my mom always told us growing up: If you have the will, you have the way," said Billy. "I've been an amputee for almost 15 years now. I've come a good long way, and that's with the help of the One Call team. They truly do empower me with these prosthetics."
Finding Purpose Again: Lending A Hand
Even though Billy taught himself to weld again, he understood that his life changed the day he lost his arms. The love for welding remained, but Billy knew it was no longer his passion. He had to do some soul searching to determine what he could — and wanted — to do without his arms.
Then he got a call.
"I was sitting here one day when my brother called me up. He works for public works, and he asked me if I would come talk to his guys. He said, 'Well, my guys are being unsafe, and with what you’ve been through, I think it would be a very positive thing here at our company if you come and speak with them,'" Billy said.
It was the first time the idea of talking about his injury publicly occurred to Billy P. He said it wasn't exactly his first choice, seeing that he hadn’t really spoken in front of an audience since grade school, but he accepted the offer from his brother and spoke.
He didn't rehearse it or plan out the key topic points he wanted to address; Billy simply spoke of his experience. Though it wasn't perfect that first time, Billy understood the weight of what he was doing.
That's how Lending A Hand, LLC was born.
Billy started presenting to other high-risk companies about work safety. Over time, he has refined the speech itself, though no two speeches are ever the same. For Billy, authenticity is most important each time. The lessons learned in workplace safety always follow.
"Once I started doing presentations, companies were asking me if I knew an electrician who might've been hurt at work, or if someone who was burned at work could come and speak," Billy said. This grew his network of people, and his services started to boom.
COVID, of course, made it hard to connect with others. Since Lending A Hand relied on in-person talks, Billy had to adjust to the virtual world of Zoom. As 2021 continues, however, he's seen his business gaining traction among companies looking to expand their workplace safety initiatives once again. He plans to continue to lend his voice to the workplace safety conversation.
Workers Need the Right Team Behind Their Care
For Billy P., it's easy to see that dedication and drive are behind his successes. Without having the innate desire to arrive at his new normal, Billy would not be where he is today.
Some of that drive comes from within, and no doubt Billy is a true example of the triumph of human will. The other piece of the healing puzzle comes down to who's behind the injured worker, cheering them on and advocating for the best possible outcomes.
For One Call, Billy has become an inspiration for everyone on the team, from the company's CEO down to the care coordinators and staff.
"We were lucky that, in January 2020, Billy was able to visit our 2020 National Sales Conference," Hurst said. Billy spoke about his experience and story. According to the team at One Call, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. His message was clear: He was grateful for the team behind him because they helped him get to the place he is today.
"From the bottom of my heart, my soul, I am just so thankful for all the work they do, because they truly do keep me moving forward," he said. "I would probably be okay without my prosthetics, but they got me back to where I used to be. Things might be different or slower, but I have the ability to do things for myself and give hugs again.
"The workers' comp team may work behind the scenes, but they deserve to be recognized a little bit more for what they do."
And Billy isn't the anomaly for One Call, either; the team strives to engage all its injured workers in their recovery so they too can return to work, to life, and find a way forward.
"I'm grateful for my role here at One Call," Hurst said, "because it has allowed me to assist injured workers regardless of what the injury is, to get them the prosthetic care they need, and the ability to help them get back to their life and family, much like Billy did."
This article originally appeared in Risk & Insurance, written by Autumn Demberger.
To get in touch with Billy P., please reach out to email@example.com.