Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson says there’s nothing she wouldn’t give to prevent the accident that happened to her in 1994.

Rosemary, the 277th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, had spent months complaining about a wobbly, overloaded shelf in her office. She’d asked many times for it to be fixed and had even made plans to go into work on a day off and fix the damn thing herself.

But the day before that was to happen, the shelf collapsed on Rosemary.

The accident almost paralysed Rosemary. It left her in excruciating pain, which she’s still dealing with today. It also forced her to navigate the worker’s compensation system – an experience that was to change her life.

Rosemary found the system so baffling and poorly designed that she decided to become an advocate for people who injure themselves at work and need to apply for compensation. More than a quarter of a century later, she’s still fighting for their interests.

During that time, the worker’s compensation system has improved, but is still fundamentally flawed, according to Rosemary. The problem, she says, is that the system is designed to serve the interests of the people who run it and the companies that supply it – not the injured workers.

Helping others comes naturally to Rosemary; her first career was as a social worker. After suffering burnout, she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a science teacher. As part of the transition, she took a temporary office job – the very one where she injured herself.

Rosemary is a fiercely determined person who has learned to accept her lot with grace and humour. She’s also a living reminder that health is our most important asset.