Ask Liz Spencer today about the incident that saw her fall 6 floors and over 30 metres off a balcony just 10 months ago and two things become apparent: the seriousness of her injuries and, alongside this, how positive and forward thinking she is.

Liz’s fall, which took place in Darwin, caused severe injuries and permanent scarring to the right side of her body, and has left her with one hand permanently paralysed. It’s been a long road to recovery for the 28 year old however then and now, Liz maintains a firm focus on getting better.

“I’ve been working really hard on my physical rehab and I’m doing pretty well”, she says. Having worked her way towards a level of health where work was a possibility, getting a job was her next goal.

To her credit, in July this year Liz was successful in gaining employment with the Federal Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Between the accident and her commencing work is an incredible story of resilience and courage.

“I lost a lot of confidence as a result of the accident”, says Liz.

“It’s still difficult getting used to not having the use of one hand, and that’s been really tough”.

“But I’m back at work and I’m also driving now – things I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a lot of help and support”.

Support in recovery

Instrumental in Liz’s recovery has been the vocational training and counselling she received through AustralianSuper’s insurer, TAL.

The insurer runs a Vocational Rehabilitation Program on behalf of AustralianSuper aimed at helping eligible members who are on Income Protection get back into work.

As part of the program, Liz was appointed a vocational trainer and counsellor who supported her through the job application and interview process.

“I hadn’t applied for a job for four years so it was really good to be able to role play an interview and have someone help me with addressing the selection criteria”, she says.

“My counsellor also helped me work out how I was going to disclose my injury to my potential employer, something I would have found very difficult on my own”.

An added bonus of Liz’s participation in the program has been getting her driver’s license reinstated after it was medically suspended as a result of her injuries. Liz now drives her automatic car with the assistance of a ‘spinning knob’, a device that sits on the steering wheel and helps her to steer the car.

“Living in the Northern Territory you really can’t get by without a car”, she says.

Rehab with a focus on getting back to work

The value of meaningful work in the recovery progress is well documented* and central to the underlying philosophy of the Occupational Rehabilitation program Liz participated in.

As AustralianSuper’s Insurance Claims Manager, Suzanne Allwell explains, the benefits of work extend beyond the financial.

“There are the obvious financial benefits, but work is associated with other health benefits, making us feel part of our community, helping to foster a sense of identity, and building confidence”, she says.

Recognising this, the Vocational Rehabilitation program works by allocating each individual a claims assessor who works with them to review current health and functional capacity and help determine the support needed for optimum recovery.

“This could include anything from collaborating with employers and a treatment team on getting the individual back to work or, if this isn’t possible, setting a new career direction, upskilling and business development”.

Support on offer also extends to the individuals health with an emphasis on holistic interventions.

“We often work with people to develop exercise programs to support recovery and can also link them to community networks that can assist”, says Suzanne.

Importantly, at the centre of it all is respect and care.

“Our claims assessors are trained to provide the highest levels of respect throughout the recovery and because each situation in unique, to tailor recovery approaches to give individuals the support they need”.

It’s an approach that’s clearly worked for Liz.

“My recovery will be ongoing, but I couldn’t have made it this far without the support I’ve received”, she says.

While it’s clear Liz has benefitted from the rehab program, her recovery is also down to her fighting spirit and a great deal of courage.

And for that she deserves congratulations.

*Waddell, G. and Burton, A.K.,2006. Is work good for your health and well-being? The Stationery Office.

If a member is eligible to receive this support, the cost of this service may be paid for, however prior approval is required.

The views expressed in this article are those of the member and not AustralianSuper. The member made their comments based on their particular circumstances. You should think about your own financial situation and needs and consider obtaining financial advice before making any financial or investment decision.