Kim's story – reaching the road to normal

Kim sustained a traumatic brain injury following a fall in the workplace. In 2020, she completed icare’s Vocational Intervention Program to support her return to work.

Before Kim's accident in April 2018, she was employed as a stevedore at the Port Botany container terminal for three years. Her role involved operating a large mobile crane to move shipping containers between ships, storage areas and trucks. 

Kim has no memory of the accident but has seen camera footage of how another mobile crane hit her glass-enclosed cabin and projected her out of the cabin to the concrete floor, 10 metres below. She suffered fractures to both legs, left forearm and wrist, four ribs, facial bones and her skull.

After many operations at St George Hospital Kim was transferred to Royal Rehab for rehabilitation and finally discharged in September 2018. Because hers was a severe workplace injury, she was supported by icare’s Workers Care program.

"It's been about three years now and I'm still adjusting to living with my brain injury," says Kim.

“I still have no taste or smell. My vision is impaired, fatigue is a factor and reduced mobility is a killer—I used to be so active. 

“I have cognitive issues which makes it hard to find the right words to explain myself and to get to the point. So it’s difficult communicating with anyone. My planning processes are also impaired, leaving me feeling disconnected and my confidence is at an all-time low." 

For Kim, the word "normal" has taken on a whole new meaning, faced as she is with emotional, physical and mental changes. But she was determined to go back to work.

"Elements of my old life are out of reach but working is not one of them," Kim goes on.

"I was referred to VIP to coordinate my return to work in January 2019. This had many layers. I had to deal with my own ‘defects’. No-one, including myself, was sure I could pass my orientation. But the good news is, I did!"

Kim spent the first few weeks just talking to work colleagues, being open about her brain injury, giving them the time to be comfortable around her and just letting them know it was okay. 

"I started with light office tasks, one day a week for four hours. Next, I was trained and approved to work with refrigerated containers. This physical role involves climbing stairs and working three eight-hour shifts a week."

She is also training to be a tower clerk, coordinating the import and export of containers and is waiting to be signed off for this role. 

"VIP has given my workplace and me a team of experts who understand my challenges and help us navigate through them. 

"Working has restored my independence and I can see that the road to normal is now within reach. Being able to work encourages me to focus on the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t.

“Isolation is a real issue, so just being involved as part of the team has helped me rebuild my confidence to socialise.”

For Kim, the VIP program has provided her with the opportunity to be part of the solution rather than remaining part of the problem.

"I want to be the best I can be, to be able to contribute and have a sense of self-worth. I know I have to work harder, but at least I have the chance to try. My goal is I want to be signed off in three work skill sets … this year!"