Leading the Way

Former major leaguer works hard to overcome health crisis

When Jason Jones, a 39-year-old former professional baseball player, went into the hospital to have a brain tumor removed, he expected to be home in two or three days.

Unfortunately, Jason developed a post-operative hematoma and underwent surgery to relieve swelling to his brain. To make matters worse, he had other complications, including seizure and weakness on one side of his body. The trauma to his brain also left him with aphasia, a disorder that robbed him of the ability to communicate.

Instead of two or three days in the hospital, Jason stayed 33.

“When I left the hospital, I could only say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and got that right about half of the time,” Jason said. “It was really hard because I’ve always been health conscious, but I still ended up with cancer and then all of these complications.”

Jason grew up a baseball player. He played college ball at Kennesaw State and was drafted by the Texas Rangers. He made his way through the Rangers farm system and was eventually called up to the major leagues.

“That was back when Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were on the team,” Jason recalled fondly. “I played in 40 big league games and hit three home runs – one off of Bartolo Colon, who’s playing for the Braves now.”

After baseball, Jason went into sales. He and his wife bought a house, were busy raising a daughter and had another child on the way. Then his job, health, expenses, everything became uncertain.

“That’s when Unum stepped in and helped me keep my house and the rest of my life pretty much the same,” he said. “Because of my long term disability benefit, I had money to pay my mortgage and cover the rest of our living expenses. It was such a relief, because it let me focus more on my health and recovery.”

In addition to his monthly benefit payment, Jason also received a work incentive benefit. This additional benefit was paid because Jason and Jonathan McClelland, a disability benefits specialist at Unum, developed a vocational plan that would help Jason transition back to work when he was ready.

“Jason’s motivation was the primary driver in his return-to-work success,” Jonathan explained. “Because of his focus, we worked together with his employer and doctors to develop a return-to-work plan that was best for his situation. I think his biggest goal in going back to work was so he could care for his family, which was admirable.”

Jason’s desire to return to a productive lifestyle is not unique. Many people who experience a life-changing illness or injury want to get back to the way things were. But that might not be possible, or they might not know where to start.

Depending on the situation, a disability benefits specialist or vocational rehabilitation consultant may recommend worksite modifications, initially working part time, or training and searching for a new job.

That was the case with Jason. “Even after some pretty big setbacks, he was not deterred, even if that meant only returning part-time and in a position that he was unfamiliar with,” Jonathan said.

Nearly a year after his medical ordeal, Jason went back in a new position, working 12 hours per week. Today, he’s working full time with an eye to getting back into his sales role.

“Every day I feel better about where I am, but I’m still not quite ready to jump in all the way,” Jason said. “I’m grateful for Unum’s assistance throughout this difficult time and for the continued support and encouragement of my employer and co-workers.”

 

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