June 20, 2008

Brendan Doyle: Return-to-Work Person of the Year

You probably have never heard of Brendan Doyle, a Rhode Island state trooper, but his story, as told by Amanda Milkovits in the Providence Journal, belongs in the hearts and minds of anyone involved in disability management. He exemplifies what great medicine, combined with ferocious determination and discipline, can accomplish.

Just over a year ago, he was punched to the ground by a low life named James Proulx, hitting his head on the pavement. His injuries were so severe, doctors discussed organ donation with his family. He was comatose, hooked up to a respirator, his skull shattered.

But he held on. Eventually, he was moved to Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Boston, where doctors dismissed any notion that he would be able to return to work. He was paralyzed on his right side and suffered from double vision. But by the fall of last year, after doctors reattached a piece of his skull, Doyle noticed that his fine motor skills started to return. The double vision disappeared and he regained feeling and mobility in his right side.

Against All Odds
By this past spring, Doyle said he wanted to return to his job as a trooper: not a modified duty, desk job in the back of some precinct, but full duty. His supervisors, who supported him from day one, put him through rigorous retraining in firearms, pursuit driving, use of force techniques and through "shoot - don't shoot" scenarios to test his reaction times. He endured the standard three week course of 13 hour days in the police academy. He passed every test with flying colors, even earning a master pin for firearms.

So against all odds, with no small element of luck, Brendan Doyle is back on the job. From the beginning of his ordeal, this was his one goal. By all rights he should have become permanently and totally disabled, drawing 100 percent of his trooper pay tax free for the rest of his life. No one would have questioned it. But Doyle refused to bow to this fate. In doing so, he exemplifies what the human spirit can accomplish despite ridiculous odds.

I would like to see a picture of Doyle, with his humble smile and crescent moon-shaped scar, posted over the desk of every ER and occupational doctor, every nurse case manager and claims adjuster - and every employer - to remind us that the goal of treatment for injured workers is return to full duty. Forget the odds. Look beyond the trauma of the incident itself and the dire prognosis. Anyone seeing Doyle in the days and weeks following his injury would have scoffed at the notion that he would ever be in uniform again. But that is exactly where he is today.

I hope never to meet Trooper Brendan Doyle: to do so would probably mean I was involved in an accident or going a little too fast on I-95 outside of Providence. Nevertheless, I will try to keep his image in mind. For all of us who work in risk management, cost control and safety, who focus on doing the right thing for injured workers, Trooper Doyle embodies the spirit and goal of our work. He is the Insider's Return-to-Work Person of the Year.

| 2 Comments

2 Comments

An outstanding example of the reality that patient motivation, employer support (not coercion) are the greatest determinants to full return to work. Also shows again that if he had listened to his doctors, he would be perm disabled, another perfect example of the fact that doctors too often disable people.

Trooper Doyle's story is a great one, and I am very happy that he made a full recovery and returned unrestricted to his job.

Trooper Doyle's body was able to make that recovery, given the great medical care he received and lot of hard work.

However, a similarly injured person might have had an entirely different outcome no matter what the care or other circumstances.

We know that fire and police employees don't get jerked around by a comp. carrier and therefore actually get the help they need without going before a judge every time they need anything.

Perhaps the "take home" message for employers is to treat their injured workers as well as Trooper Doyle was treated. But they won't do that, because there is no mandate to do so as the average worker has no special protection. Joe SixPack will wind up on SSDI unable to feed his family.

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on June 20, 2008 10:51 AM.

Looking for Fraud...In the Mirror was the previous entry in this blog.

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