Patient Advocacy in Action
In 2015, life as Mr. Valdez knew changed forever when he suffered a spinal cord injury at work. It seemed like one minute he was living an active lifestyle in college, and the next he was confined to a wheelchair as a paraplegic. Apart from his recent immobility, it was an exceedingly difficult time for him emotionally. He couldn’t comprehend the situation at first and being solely a Spanish speaker only added to his confusion as those around him spoke a different language.
Fortunately, MTI stepped in to support Mr. Valdez with his rehabilitation process. Carmen Nelson, a 10-year catastrophic care coordinator with MTI, was assigned to Mr. Valdez. Carmen’s husband also suffered a spinal cord injury and is a paraplegic. She says “Injured workers who sustain a spinal cord injury struggle to navigate the emotional pain they are faced with in a complex healthcare system; the emotional and physical healing process takes time. Mr. Valdez needs a caring and empathetic approach to help him get through this life-changing event.” Mr. Valdez let out a sigh of relief when he found out she was fluent in Spanish. He was thrilled to have someone that could understand and explain his situation thoroughly. Carmen’s ability to speak Spanish was an integral part of Mr. Valdez’s journey. From day one, she offered a helping hand to Mr. Valdez by coordinating each step of his rehabilitation process including physical therapy, home health aides, catastrophic care, etc.
Carmen and Mr. Valdez quickly developed a good understanding for each other. He was able to open to Carmen about the emotional challenges that came with his disability. She encouraged him to embrace each challenge with open arms and hope and to persevere through the rehabilitation process. Together, they brainstormed on ways for Mr. Valdez to find support and new friendships. Through Carmen’s support, Mr. Valdez decided to join a basketball wheelchair team.
His basketball team offered new friendships with peers who understood what he was going through. This helped Mr. Valdez develop a new attitude and feel more connected. He finally felt he wasn’t alone in his new journey as a paraplegic and felt more emotionally balanced. Carmen helped him not only with his physical recovery, but his emotional.
“Injured workers who sustain a spinal cord injury struggle to navigate the emotional pain they are faced with in a complex healthcare system; the emotional and physical healing process takes time.”
– Carmen Nelson, Catastrophic Care Coordinator, MTI America
At one of his basketball meetings, Mr. Valdez opened up about how he once felt lost and despaired about his injury, but thanks to MTI and Carmen’s support and help, he felt like a brand-new person. “I can’t express my gratitude for what Miss Carmen did for me. I really feel whole again,” he said.
Carmen was beside him through it all; supporting him through his rehabilitation, taking care of all his home health care therapies, and ensuring his progress both physically and emotionally. He recently stated that if it were not his injury, he wouldn’t have the amazing opportunity to encourage and support others in his basketball community. He is very thankful for MTI encouraging him to treat his new disability as an opportunity rather than a stop sign in life. Carmen’s empathetic approach and medical expertise helped support a return to a productive healthy, happy lifestyle for this injured worker.
Mr. Valdez’s disability was not the end as he once felt it was, but the beginning of a new life. Oliver Sack once said, “I wish for a world that views disability, mental or physical not as a hindrance but as a unique attribute that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities” This is exactly how Mr. Valdez views of his unique attribute today.
Stories like Mr. Valdez are what we strive for at MTI. In a world that is a melting pot, we pride ourselves in having translators that speak more than 250 languages and dialects including sign language. By breaking down the language barrier, MTI employees can emphasize and connect with injured workers, helping them get back to health and work as quickly as possible.