PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 19 On a routine stop at thesupermarket in November 2006, Leah Freesmeier fell to the ground, hitting theleft side of her head on the cement floor and leaving her with a severe injuryto her brain. The injury left her with language and hearing impairments,aphasia and right cranial nerve/facial palsy. She doesn't remember falling, ormost of the three weeks she was in the hospital, but she does remember therehabilitation she went through that enabled her to return to her job as acustomer support specialist.
"I was lucky to have CIGNA during this ordeal," said Freesmeier. "Not onlywas the company great at assisting me with the overwhelming process ofunderstanding the various administrative aspects I had to take care of, but myrehabilitation counselor worked very closely with me to ensure I had the bestcare possible to enable me to get back to work, which was my ultimate goal."
After intense physical and speech therapy, Freesmeier worked with a CIGNAvocational rehabilitation counselor and was ready to return to work six monthsafter her injury. CIGNA's vocational rehabilitation counselors are educatedand skilled in helping individuals with disabilities make career plans, learnnew skills and face their fears. They understand and anticipate these fearsand provide support, education and resources to overcome them.
Freesmeier's CIGNA vocational rehabilitation counselor began the processof helping her plan her return to work. This included assessing factors thatcould potentially impact the success of her return-to-work plan anddetermining how some challenges could be reduced or avoided altogether.Additionally, the counselor worked with all of Freesmeier's treatingphysicians to facilitate easing her back into the workplace. Based on theirrecommendations, the counselor worked with the local state rehabilitationagency to arrange for Freesmeier to be accompanied by an onsite coach for thefirst two months back on the job. The onsite coach helped Freesmeier withthings such as ensuring she was taking appropriate notes and followingprocesses.
"Having the onsite coach during my first few months back on the job wasvery beneficial for me," says Freesmeier. "It made my transition back into myroutine a lot easier."
Freesmeier's rehabilitation experience is one of several successes CIGNAGroup Insurance is highlighting next week during a series of employee andcustomer gatherings in the company's disability claim offices in Pittsburgh,Dallas and Glendale, Calif. Through these events, CIGNA will focus onvocational rehabilitation, celebrated each September as part of NationalRehabilitation Awareness Week, with a mission to educate people about thebenefits and impact of rehabilitation. CIGNA Group Insurance, and sistercompany Intracorp, are the national sponsors of this observance, celebratedfrom Sept. 16-22, in cooperation with the National Rehabilitation AwarenessFoundation (NRAF) of Scranton, PA.
CIGNA will be awarding employers, including Toyota, McKesson Corporationand Henry Ford Health System, with a Return-to-Work Award for their success inimplementing return-to-work programs for their employees. In addition,claimants, such as Freesmeier, will be visiting the offices to share theirsuccessful return-to-work stories with CIGNA employees.
"CIGNA works to assist our employer customers, and their disabledemployees, in the shared goal of returning to productive work," said MarkMarsters, senior vice president, CIGNA Group Insurance. "Many employers arecommitted to ensuring return-to-work programs are in place. These efforts notonly contribute to productivity, but they also enable employees to regainindependent living."
"I never imagined something like this would ever happen to me," saysFreesmeier. "I am fortunate to be alive and I am grateful to have been able toreturn to work after my rehabilitation."