Steve’s story: Getting back to work
2 October 2019
Steve was decorating at home when he was hit by sudden bouts of severe pins and needles in his back. He went to A&E, but the pain got worse and he was suddenly unable to move his legs. An MRI found that a piece of bone somewhere on Steve’s spine had dislodged and caused an infection on his spinal cord – paralysing him at the T12 level.
“I was suddenly a full-time wheelchair user. I spent five and a half months at the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries. When you’re in the spinal centre you have an awful lot of time to think about things. One of the main topics I kept thinking about was my job.
“I was determined to get back to work and minimise the impact my injury had on me and my family.”
Although he had the option to medically retire, Steve was set on returning to his job as a detective in the Staffordshire police service. He made sure to keep in regular contact with his team while in the spinal centre – communicating his needs and ensuring that everything was in place for his return.
“We had a number of meetings before I went back to work about adjustments that needed to be made to the station. My colleagues were fantastic. They made sure there was a ramp up the steps, an accessible toilet, and a lift to my office ready for me when I got back to work.
“I managed to get all of this because I worked closely with my boss to make sure my needs were taken care of.”
Steve was able to return to work on a reduced timetable. At first, he was doing two hours a day, one day a week, but he gradually increased his hours until he was working four shifts – seven to nine hours a week.
“Every person with a spinal cord injury has days where they aren’t feeling 100%. You may deal with UTIs, or fatigue from day-to-day pushing. My workplace understood that working flexibly would help me manage those bad days.”
Steve also found external support to help him flourish at work. He made use of the government’s Access to Work scheme to get a grant towards a new wheelchair he could use at work.
“I found it difficult and painful to get my wheelchair in and out of my car – so I used Access to Work to get a second wheelchair I could leave behind at the office. I would drive to work, then one of my colleagues would come and help me transfer into my work wheelchair.
“The application process was very simple. My employer and I filled in the form, and a month later the scheme got back in touch with us. I was granted the costs of 30% towards my new wheelchair, and the rest was down to my employer and I to pay for. I’m quite lucky though – Staffordshire Police payed for my third too!”
Steve retired in 2017, having spent 30 fulfilling years working with the police. He enjoys spending a lot of time with his family caravanning around the UK and France, as well as taking on charity work whenever he can. Steve trained as a mentor for Back Up and supports people in a similar situation to him.
“I enjoy mentoring. It’s really important that I share my experiences with newly injured people as it can be hard to adapt to life post-injury.
“For me, mentoring is a bit of a carry-over from what I did as a detective. 90% of police work is about helping people.”
We’re glad to hear that Steve can bring his expertise to help our service users. If you need to talk about work, get in touch with Ollie.
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