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Diversity and Inclusion 2 min read

Embracing the new: stepping past disability with confidence, resilience and the support of a great place to work

The legacy of a serious leg injury left CWB’s Nadine Cotter, Creative Director and AVP, wanting more. With courageous confidence and the help of her employer every step of the way, she’s now charting the active and fulfilling lifestyle she’s always wanted.

January 16, 2019 is a day I won’t soon forget. I underwent elective surgery to amputate my left leg, below the knee. It seems incomprehensible to most, but for me it was quite easy. At age four I was hit by a car while crossing the street, leaving me with a crush injury and a physical scar that altered every facet of my life.

The years that followed were filled with many surgeries, challenges and disappointments, coping the best I could and conditioning myself to adapt and persevere. I was always in pursuit of appearing normal and finding joy. In 2012, over 30 years later, I gave birth to my son. He gave me all the strength and clarity I needed to make a plan for the future, and byNadine sits cross legged at her desk, her prosthetic leg in view. now my ankle was retiring into sedentary life. I had also grown tired of making the best of it and my ego was finally at ease with being different. So I made a conscious decision for amputation. It was my only chance at leading a fulfilling and active life and I was far too young, and otherwise healthy, to accept anything less.

This wasn’t an easy path, however. It took years of contemplation, research and persistence with my medical team. Eventually I convinced my surgeon that amputation was a reasonable option for me under the circumstances. It was time for my life experience to take on the challenge of amputation. This came not with guarantees, but with belief and hope.

Then came time to tell CWB. This decision had impact beyond me, affecting my employer and my “tealmates.” I was anxious about sharing the news.

My leader had seen me for years without observing my struggle, as did everyone else. But when faced with this news, she only asked: How can we help? And she meant it.

A lesser employer would focus on the loss of productivity and cost, but with CWB, I was never made to feel like a burden. I left for surgery confident CWB’s team and benefits would be there for me, and I could focus my energy on healing and rehabilitation. All they needed from me was a little paperwork. 

And so, after a quiet holiday with my family, and preparing ourselves for an outcome we couldn’t predict, the day came. I was eager for the next chapter to begin.

The next many months were filled with physical and emotional pain, innumerable prosthetic fittings, a lot of rehab, and a ton of help. 

With a people-first culture at her back, Nadine is among many supportive people leaders at CWB who make special efforts to recognize outstanding work

Just like family, CWB was with me every step of the way: emotionally, financially, and professionally. My team sent care packages, our benefits provider was exceptional, my leaders provided me parking and a flexible return to work. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. 

Nearly two years after surgery, I have surpassed all my expectations. I’m pain free and can walk until my heart’s content, doing things with my family that I was incapable of before. Some things are different, but I don’t for one second regret my decision. I have reached the richest phase of my life thus far. I feel incredibly grateful and fortunate to have arrived at this crossroad in my life with CWB having my back.