Since this 1997 letter by Steve Mantis was first posted in Injuredworkersonline.org, Steve has continued his leadership in the movement through his work with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups, as community lead in the Research Action Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury, and currently as Executive Committee member of the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy. A tribute made on awarding Steve the Ontario Bar Association’s 2008 Ron Ellis Award recounts his many contributions to fellow injured workers and to the broader community.
My name is Steve. I was hurt almost 20 years ago in 1978 while working construction. As you know, in construction, a worker goes from one job to the next. Sept. 12, 1978, I was moving a house off of its crumbling foundation to a new foundation. The job was almost done and I was cleaning up. As I wound the steel cable on the winch, my glove got caught on the cable and got pulled into the winch. The winch continued to turn and my left arm wrapped around the drum until it pulled off three inches from the shoulder.
While in the hospital, I received tremendous support from my friends and family. This really made a difference in my recovery. There are so many examples of this support that I can’t tell them all, but I want to share one incident. My friend Al came to see me in the hospital, and after the initial pleasantries, he suggested I get better soon as he wanted me to build a house for him. I didn’t know what to think. I figured he was nuts. How was a one armed carpenter to build a house? What he was doing was planting a seed. He was letting me know that he thought I was still capable and useful. My friends and family came through for me big time.
In contrast to this was my meeting with the prosthetist, the person that makes artificial limbs. My doctor told me he was an expert. He asked by trade and then told me I’d never work construction again. He asked about my hobbies, gardening being one. He said I won’t be able to garden any more. His advice was to find a good woman who would take care of me for the rest of my life. You can see from this episode that the expert sure didn’t expect much from my life.
I went back to working in construction for ten years. During that time, I got involved with a group of injured workers in Thunder Bay and we started the Thunder Bay Injured Workers Support Group in 1984. This volunteer activity had a major impact on my life. I ended up leaving construction in 1988 and spent 8 years working in vocational rehabilitation. I now work for the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance helping to start other self help groups and supporting those groups that are already doing good work.
Well there you go.You know, just writing this up puts me through a lot. My arm started hurting like crazy and lots of ideas and feelings happened.
All the best,