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Duane Janiskevich is a jack of all trades, having worked as a construction and farm laborer, high school teacher, computer programmer and project manager, he’s someone who can point you in the right direction, no matter the subject.
On November 22, 2008 Duane had a life altering injury that cost him the use of his thumb and three fingers on his right hand. This experience lead Duane to develop Stop Cutting Corners, a safety and leadership presentation based on his experiences.
We sat down with Duane to discuss the mental aspect of a physical injury, as well as the healing process and how addressing attitudes towards safety can prevent future injuries.
“Photo courtesy Daniel Behnke.”
SG: Was hand safety something that you were conscious of prior to your injury?
DJ: No, there was a lot of types of safety I wasn’t aware of, there is an old saying “don’t learn about safety by accident,” and it was one of those things where you don’t realize how important safety is until you’ve transgressed.
SG: When you speak at large organizations, what are people the most surprised to find out?
DJ: I think what surprises people most is that it doesn’t have to be a life threatening injury to be a life altering injury.
SG: What are some of the ways that this injury impacted your life?
DJ: The day of the event is a little mind blowing. It’s a surreal moment when you see your fingers in a Ziploc bag. Then there is everything that sets in after the fact: the intense pain, the second guessing — what could I have done differently. Trying to figure out what you are going to do and how you are going to get back from this. I carried a lot of regret from that day, but I was fortunate enough to have a good support group.
SG: What type of support group did you have?
DJ: My family and friends rallied around me — for the eight days I was in the hospital, I had a lot of visitors who kept my spirits up. I also had friends who helped finish my renovations.
SG: How about from a medical aspect?
DJ: I went to the Hand Clinic in Regina (Saskatchewan, Canada). All they do is work on hands and help with rehabilitation. It was very therapeutic, you would see people with these injuries that were going through a lot worse — which helped to give me perspective.
SG: Was it that perspective that brought you to create Stop Cutting Corners?
DJ: Well about six months after the injury, I spoke at a school. I wasn’t really talking about my injury, I was more just focusing on safety but wanted to show the kids my hand for the shock factor. And they were shocked. I kind of broke down during the presentation but that helped me start the emotional healing process and realize that people wanted to hear this story.
SG: It’s a very intense presentation.
DJ: Yes, that’s the aim of it. You don’t realize how much even a “small” injury can change your life and limit you in ways you didn’t expect.
SG: What are some of the limitations you have now?
DJ: I was off work for six months because of the injury and it’s the things that you wouldn’t think twice about, like tying your shoes or buttoning a shirt cuff. When it’s something you used to do in a second, it was so frustrating to struggle with it.
SG: Can you speak a bit about the healing process.
DJ: Well, last December I had to have another operation. So seven years after the fact I still have to have surgery, which shows you the long lasting effect. For a while there was phantom pain in my index and ring finger. But that’s pretty rare now, it’s more like phantom prickling. My support group was key but being able to talk to people about my injury has helped the most. Hopefully it also helps them to realize that the shortcut they have done a hundred times could end up being the thing that hurts them.
SG: What is your percentage of recovery?
DJ: The doctors were able to reattach my thumb and the tip of my index finger. I have about 80 percent use of my hand, but it’s not as strong as it used to be. I had to become a lot more ambidextrous.
“Stop Cutting Corners logo, based on Duane’s injury.”
SG: How did your attitude towards safety change?
DJ: My injury and the development of Stop Cutting Corners gave me a bigger focus on prevention now. My recovery provided with a new perspective towards safety and proper PPE. This whole incident was preventable if I had stopped for a second, took a breath and thought about the smartest — not quickest — way to accomplish the task.
SG: So what is the key message you want people to take away from Stop Cutting Corners?
DJ: We are programmed to look for shortcuts and look for ways to do things quicker. They are called “tricks of the trade,” but if it’s sacrificing quality or safety, it’s not a trick, it’s a trap. We are a lot more fragile than we realize.
(Want to learn more about Duane’s dedication to speaking about health and safety? Visit www.stopcuttingcorners.ca.)
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