Three months after horrific crash, Salem Health employee back on the job

Isaiah WIM
Isaiah U.’s life suddenly changed without warning in April 2014.

“I was driving down the road and the other guy came across the lane and hit me head on,” says Isaiah, a supervisor with Salem Health Environmental Services.

After rescuers pulled Isaiah out of his mangled car, Salem Health ER doctors discovered he had a long list of serious injuries.

The force of the crash shattered Isaiah’s right arm and fractured his ribs. He also had a lung contusion, a double concussion and a hematoma on his esophagus.

Isaiah also lost all feeling between the hand and elbow in his shattered arm. To repair the damage, a surgeon inserted two rods and 13 pins.

The recovery

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah then began his journey to recovery as an outpatient with Salem Health Rehabilitation Services.

“For the first eight months or so, I had nearly no function in my right arm,” he says.

At first, physical and occupational therapists focused on the nerve damage and helped Isaiah gradually regain the use of his right hand and arm. He learned that nerves gradually regenerate by one millimeter per day.

He slowly improved with each passing week, thanks to exercises like carrying a can of soup — and then two cans after that.

“They were able to rebuild the strength in the arm back up to where I was able to function,” Isaiah says.

This is where therapy often ends for most people, but Isaiah had more lofty goals of returning to work. “I knew I could do my job, but I didn’t know how to do it,” he says.

That’s when the Work Injury Management program came into play.

His occupational therapist developed a customized therapy program that incorporated his work related tasks to achieve his goals. 

Back to work

Isaiah returned to his job three months after his car accident.

“I was on light duty,” he says. “I could carry a clipboard around and write stuff down. But it wasn’t pretty.”

Determined to make a full recovery, he is continuing with outpatient therapy to help him adapt to his injuries.

“The therapists are showing me ergonomic techniques to help me with movements that I need to do differently,” he says. “It’s really keeping me focused and on-task so I don’t hurt myself further.”

Isaiah believes his recovery has hit the 85 percent mark — but adds he’s still striving for 100 percent.

Bright future

Isaiah says his recovery would not have been possible without the caring staff at Salem Health.

Before coming to Salem Health Rehabilitation Services, he checked out other options in the Salem area. He discovered Salem Health therapists could do it all — helping people reach their maximum potential and tackling their goals.

“I don’t know how else to say thank you,” Isaiah says. “They did a wonderful job. The experience I had here was amazing.”

Isaiah says he’s upbeat about the future: “The sky is the limit at this point.”