INTOUCH : From Brain Injury to Winning Awards

Michael Wright can’t tell you exactly why he fell off his bike and struck his head against the curb. But he can tell you what it was like to win New Zealand’s top prize for credit and finance professionals.
“I was gratified to have been nominated; shocked to be made finalist; and then elated to win,” says the 47-year-old manager of credit and billing services at Express Couriers in Auckland.
Elated because just three years ago, Wright suffered such traumatic brain injury he thought he’d never work again. For days he couldn’t even recognise his own family. Nor could he remember how he’d got that way.
“One minute I was on my bike behind my son. The next minute my head hit the kerb. Then I woke up in hospital. The doctors would come into my room every day, hold up various items for me to identify. If I couldn’t recognise it, they’d return and test me again. But once I could recognise it, we knew things were improving.”
He spent month and half in Middlemore Hospital before being released to rehabilitate at home. From there it was long, slow road to recovery. And that road recently led to him being named the New Zealand Credit and Finance Institute Credit Professional of the Year.
“I was determined to get back to work. In South Africa, where I’m from, if you’re not working, you don’t get paid. At least in New Zealand we have ACC so I didn’t have that stress, but I’m not the type to sit around at home. I’m driven, determined and stubborn, but the biggest driver I had was that I had responsibilities, and I couldn’t stay on ACC all my life,” says Wright.
ACC supplied caregiver who went to his home every day, taking him to physiotherapy and speech therapy, along with teaching him how to get back into everyday life. “I had to be taught how to wash dishes again without knocking them over. I couldn’t see well, and still can’t in low light, so I needed to be re-taught things I’d been able to do since child,” Wright says.
From there he began graduated return to work. Starting with working just one hour twice week, he built up until he was back full-time only nine months after the accident. While grateful, Wright has his challenges. Fatigue is still an issue but, he manages that by starting and finishing early, with most of his meetings conducted in the morning. His speech can still give him problems, especially if he’s tired, his memory can let him down and he often finds it hard to see without bright lighting.
“The best thing about winning this award is that I now have proof I am doing good job. After I had the accident, it was enough to just get back to work – I never expected to win an award for it. But this is confirmation that I’m working as well, if not better, than I was before.”

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