While many people are trying to figure out how to live life to the fullest, injured workers often have the benefit of eventually seeing their retraining as a “reset” in life so they can really appreciate what life has to offer. It’s as if after a period of darkness, the lights have been turned on to new possibilities.
When Viktoria came to OCC, she had suffered a traumatic head injury. While working as a jewelry specialist at a department store, a large piece of machinery fell on her, injuring her head, back, and shoulder. Viktoria often dealt with confusion, blurry vision, and difficulty concentrating. She was not sure that any type of retraining would be possible for her.
Together, Viktoria and her OCC counselor considered many different options. Together they learned about the best ways for her to improve her attention and concentration. Viktoria was able to plan for success by removing distractions, focusing on one task at a time, and taking breaks when she got tired. Eventually, Viktoria chose to work on a real estate program, which had online videos she could watch and re-watch to be sure retained the information.
“My OCC counselor cared and was always helpful,” Viktoria said. “I had not been in school for over 20 years and he was always there to help me.”
We are very proud to say that Viktoria passed her real estate course on the first try and she is now a certified realtor with a career path that can take her far. What could have become a very dark time was turned around and light was shone on all that was possible for Viktoria. She has renewed hope and joy in her life and we are so grateful to have been a part of that!
While I was recovering from my worker’s compensation injury, I experienced some pretty depressing times. The damage from my work injury was permanent and I was restricted from jobs that required typing; the only thing I knew. Even though I had opportunities to interview for other jobs that did not require typing, all of these positions paid much less than what my family needed to continue our normal daily lives.
I was a single mother raising three children all under the age of 10. I had not even earned my high school diploma. My boss at the time, Edward Ortega, had one very simple philosophy: Don’t be stupid. Educate yourself. With fewer job prospects after my injury, I made the decision to continue my education.
Going back to school as an adult poses its own set of challenges. Going back to school when you’re a single mother can be exponentially more difficult. I attended school at night. My schedule was beyond tight, taking 21 units at once to finish quickly. My kids missed me and I missed them. There were times when I was furious about the situation, but I would remember Mr. Ortega and somehow the future looked brighter.
I went full speed ahead to earn my bachelor degree in only a year and a half. I went on from there to earn a master’s degree in Educational Psychology. Finally, I secured not just my own future but the future of my entire family.
Little did I know, that earning my degrees would increase the likelihood of my children having academic success themselves! Today, my oldest child is in his fourth year at Humboldt University and majoring in Psychology himself. My middle child is studying for his Physical Fitness Trainer certification. Just recently, my daughter, and youngest child set off for Mt. St. Mary’s University and is majoring in Nursing. They are brilliant young people and their potential is literally limitless. Each of my children has decided to pursue a career that will help to improve the quality of people’s lives, and I can attest that there are few more noble and rewarding professions.
I am so proud of the hard work and decisions that have brought them to this point in their lives, but I can’t help but think, this all happened because of my injury. My children witnessed their mother achieving her educational goals and surpassing the expectations of many as I was the first to graduate from college in my entire family. All the naysayers were wrong–an injured worker can rehabilitate and improve their life, and their family too!
Vocational rehabilitation is one of the most valuable benefits an injured worker can access. I am so happy and grateful we live in a state where this opportunity is afforded to us.