Cigna and Achilles will help Sonya Hazel Cross Her Finish Line


As a member of Team Achilles CT Chapter, I am always happy to share stories of other Achilles athletes.  One athlete who will be running the Walt Disney World® 5K presented by Cigna on Thursday, January 4th as a member of Team Cigna is Sonya Hazel.  Last year I was lucky to find one of the athletes, Mike Green from Team Cigna on the 5K course that I had written about.  I hope to find Sonya or Tony Randolph on this year’s course.

Sonya’s Story

Sonya Hazel, 42 years old and resident of Riverdale, Ga. near Atlanta, didn’t have a chance to avoid that truck on February 23, 2017. The driver attempted to pass her while texting and driving. Like many distracted drivers, he misjudged the distance knocking Sonya’s car out of control. Her vehicle finally came to a stop after hitting a passenger van and breaking a highway wall. When the police officer arrived on the scene, she could hear him talking to the dispatcher. Judging by the vehicle, he thought she died in the crash.

Cigna and Achilles“Before the officer arrived, I couldn’t feel my legs and, as silly as it sounds, I remember thinking my husband would be so upset when he saw the car,” said Sonya. “When the officer ducked down to see inside the vehicle, I startled him when I spoke.”

The emergency room doctor thought she might have gotten away with just a sprain and applied a temporary cast. When she visited the orthopedic surgeon, he took x-rays and found a serious break. The injury caused so much swelling that she needed to wait several weeks until April before surgery could be performed. The mental scars might last the longest.

“To this day, I haven’t been able to drive my car very far,” said Sonya. “The few times I’ve driven, I just pray and play loud music to focus on driving and everything around me.”

Following four to six weeks of therapy that ended in October, she said she felt about 85 percent back. As a mom of five children including four adults and one seven-year-old daughter, she feels the hole of that extra 15 percent still ahead of her.

“I still can’t do certain things,” said Sonya. “Before the accident, I was always active. It’s been a real adjustment for my daughter. I’ll know I’m back at 100 percent when I’m able to keep up with her and run around with my grandson when he’s born next April.”

On the road to recovery and mentally itching to return to work, she asked more information on Cigna’s vocational coaching program. Soon after, she received a call from Bethany Roefs, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.

“Bethany comforts and encourages me throughout this process to help me get back to work,” said Sonya. “I feel she knows me and cares about my situation. She’s been my liaison between my employer and me and has been right there throughout everything.”

“From the beginning, Sonya’s top goals included returning to work,” said Bethany. “Making sure she stayed on track, I helped coordinate between her doctor and employer to make sure she found the right return to work plan that allowed her to fully recovery without a setback.”

Sonya’s looking forward to returning to work and getting back on track with her career.

“The day of the accident, my boss planned to talk with me about a promotion,” said Sonya. “Now, I’m looking forward to just earning a full paycheck again.”

Cigna Teams Up With Achilles International

One of the resources Bethany offered, the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events, helps people like Sonya build up physical strength and stamina.

Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their return to work goals by providing access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

As a result of her hard work and dedication to return to work, Cigna offered Sonya the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 5K presented by Cigna on Thursday, January 4th as a member of Team Cigna.

“When Bethany talked about my progress and asked if I felt ready for a 5K, I assumed she meant a local race,” said Sonya. “Then she told me Disney – surprised doesn’t quite say it. I’m grateful and see it as a challenge to get my body over that last physical hurdle.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals. She will be guided by Joan Harvey, vice president of consumer health engagement for Cigna, on the race course.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Bethany. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“At one time I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk without a cane,” said Sonya. “Look at me now getting ready for a 5K in Walt Disney World. Once I’m able to return to work, I’m really on my way back to the old Sonya again.”

About the Author

Pamela Frost

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