Up until three years ago my husband and I, along with our five children, were a happy and contented family. We worked hard and we lived comfortably. We were more than satisfied with our lot in life, nice cars, a lovely house and a substantial, reliable income for those extra luxuries we sometimes afforded ourselves. It seemed that the years of hard work were paying off.
Then everything changed. We were still coming to terms with the sudden death of my brother 12 months prior to the tragic events of 21 July 2012.
My husband and two colleagues were injured in the same workplace accident, one fatally. My husband has never been the same since being injured and witnessing the death of a vibrant, healthy young man.
The detective working on the case told us that my husband survived the accident by a margin of 4 inches.
What we’ve had to endure every day since is nothing short of cruel.
Apart from the trauma of seeing a young man die, my husband had four operations in six days, and for eight weeks we lived in fear as the surgeons were not sure they could save his leg. The doctors said he would be off work for 18 months to two years. As it turned out he didn’t have that ‘luxury’.
My husband was in a wheelchair for 4 months following his release from hospital. He returned to work the day after he got out of his wheelchair. Financially he had no choice.
We thought life couldn’t get any worse until we had to deal with the worker compensation insurer.
The insurer increased our premiums to an enormous amount because of my husband’s compensation claim.
Our home was not wheel chair accessible so we requested ramps to be installed. The insurer got around to telling us that the ramps would be provided 2 days after my husband was able to discard the wheel chair. During the 4 months he was using the wheelchair without ramps I had to get him to the car for his appointments with 3 little children in tow. It was a nightmare.
My husband requires a lot of medications which are costly. I have been waiting 5 weeks for reimbursement for his last lot of medications. It took the insurer nearly 6 months to reimburse us for a shower chair deposit.
Prior to the accident we had all the insurance cover we believed we needed. We received weekly payments from the workers compensation insurer as an employee of the company but this did not cover all our expenses. Our company’s premiums were put up so high that we had to use so much of the weekly income we received from the insurer to pay our work compensation premiums.
We had to sell both of our cars and other household goods to just survive. If my family had not helped us we would have lost our family home.
We went from living comfortably one day, to struggling physically, mentally and financially the next.
My husband was very fit and healthy, a bit of a gym junkie. He really looked after himself and took pride in his appearance. Most significantly he was our rock – while ever he there everything was fine.
After the accident he was not the same person. He lives in constant pain. His ongoing injury and the medication he has to take badly affects him, including causing significant weight gain.
This is where CCW comes in. While we found the workers compensation insurer to be a hindrance rather than helpful, the guys at CCW were unbelievable!
They spent time with my husband, working patiently with him until finally convincing him to seek help for his mental anguish – he still has flashbacks and nightmares and finds it difficult to sleep. I remember at the time thinking “What’s in it for them (CCW)?” I soon came to the understanding that they simply cared about our family.
I spoke to the insurer about getting some counseling for myself as I was at my wits end. The life I knew was non-existent and my rock (my husband) appeared to be crumbling. The insurer told me I wasn’t their problem and that they only had to cover my husband’s visits.
CCW was completely different – firstly CCW gave a ‘damn’ about all of us. They didn’t differentiate between any of us – they saw a family in need and they stepped in.
CCW spent time talking with the children and seeing the pressure I was under organized and paid for counseling for me.
When no one else cared or wanted to help us CCW were unbelievable in their support.
CCW worked with us to look to a future that we thought had gone.
I guess the most illuminating aspect of our association with the CCW and in turn the CFMEU was that we had not been union members. To be honest we were not fans of what we thought the CFMEU stood for.
Tony Vitler from the CFMEU astounded me. We were not union members and he didn’t care on little bit, he just saw a family in crisis and offered immeasurable support.
We have become union members since – not because we were pushed in any way or even asked to join, we made the decision based on the way CCW and the CFMEU treated our family.
We’ve had to endure another family tragedy and we’re reassured that CCW is there if we need it. My recently deceased brother’s 37 year old partner passed away eight weeks ago just five weeks and five days after receiving her terminal health diagnosis. Three young children have now been left without a mother. That’s a whole new story.
I have learnt a great deal since that day in July 2012, the day my husband went off to work and has not been the same man since. Work accidents can happen, and when they do so many people are affected – the person involved in the accident, the wife and the children. It seems to have a rippling affect.
The purpose of this letter is to offer my very sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone at CCW and the CFMEU, in particular Dick Garrety and Tony Vitler.
Janie Ebert – Manager
Ebert Concreting Pty Ltd