I had a serious stroke at the end of 2009 which, looking back, was brought on by a failure (on my part) to take my Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis seriously – I felt fine, but I wasn’t.
My stroke left me wheelchair bound for three months, disabled forever, with in particular a weak right side in general and a very inconvenient drop foot.
You could say I was lucky – not having a stroke lucky – but lucky that I worked a) in IT and b) I work for a Danish-owned company that responded to my illness in an extraordinary way.
I was off work for 7 months, during which time I went through a full range of health related emotions – including the inevitable depression brought on by my “loss of self” and concerns for the future.
Almost immediately following my stroke, I received a generous payment from my company’s Employee Foundation to help with anything like making adaptations to the house – axtually there were no stipulations made.
At 3 months I was discharged from Rehab (my time was up) and I was taken home, terrified of what lay ahead. For 3 months I was completely doped up and feeling depressed and suicidal, and then it happened.
I got an email from my boss, saying he was going to come over and see me. It could only mean one thing in my mind – I was about to be fired…
In fact when we met he gave me a big hug and said “We want you to come back Martin – it doesn’t matter how little you do, but we want you back.”
It was a turning point for me and for my life in general – within a week I was working (from home) full time, and even was making work trips once a month to Europe for Management and team meetings.
I support and take part in RETAKE today because of that kindness to me. I passionately believe that getting people back to work following stroke is not only a life-saver for those who suffer it, but it is commercially a really smart thing to do – why throw away years of experience because an employee has to adjust to some difficulties getting used to their new life reality? If you can have maternity leave, why not post-stroke adjustment leave?
RETAKE seeks to engage with stroke patients and employers to find ways to rebuild peoples lives after the catastrophe that is stroke. Many people have not or will not be so fortunate as I was in getting back to work, but we should for sure try and make their chances of recovery as best we can.