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Teachers returning to work after surgery!

Shell74SShell74 Posts: 299
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Everyone has me wondering if my doctors goal for me to return to work in January is realistic :SS . I am almost 3 months out from a one level lumbar fusion. I am an Occupational Therapist in the school. A standard day consists of me driving an hour or more to a school, unpacking my supplies out of my car (since I am a mobile therapist I dont have a classroom usually, just 2 kid sized chairs and leaning over a small desk at the end of a hallway), pulling a cart around, carrying it up and down the steps, providing therapy to 15-25 kids between 9-12AM and 1-3PM, up the steps, across the building every half hour (picking kids up and taking kids back), rolling on a mat, putting kids on balls, being jumped on and lifting non ambulatory kids in certain special education classrooms etc.... Oh yeah, then I need to pack up and drive an hour home! There is no such things as light duty and no way to follow BLT restrictions in my job, its all or nothing and very unpredictable, I cant just take a break or ignore a student running for the front door. Fellow teachers may be familiar with my job as an itinerant OT therapist. What do you think??? Will I ever be ready? OK, I know nobody can answer that,I am just venting :''( , lol. I just would appreciate some input.



  • Have you discussed your job requirements with your surgeon to see if you will still have BLT restrictions then? I have a pretty good idea what your job entails (former SpEd teacher, SpEd administrator, & elementary principal) and know it can be quite challenging depending on the students you have at a given time. Is part-time an option for you? Might be a way to give it a try if your surgeon OKed all the movement.
  • The schools will consider part time, however I would still need to do all of the driving, loading, packing, leaning over tables, etc... There is the possibility that I could avoid autistic support, emotional support and multiple disabilty contained classrooms which would help a bit.

    Part time also becomes tricky because then I would become hourly and they dont need to pay me my daily income protection for the days I dont work like they do now.

    As of now I still have all of my restrictions, so its not a question right now. I guess I am starting to panic I wont be ready! January isnt set in stone, it was just a goal. He does know what I do, but sometimes I think they dont understand the extent. I think when I go in I will have a detailed schedule of my day and everything I must do.

  • supposedly part time but it is a joke cos others can't see your struggle and of course you try and make up the guilt of being away so you pretend to be a super hero...

    If you don't think you 'll be ready please tell them.

    I think you need to have a pretty normal home day before you attempt the work day. Ok, you may not be pain freeand you may go a bit backwards but it all needs to be in mamagable sizes.

    Good Luck.

    p.s. Every week you shoul dget stronger
  • Shell...I am in the same boat as you. My surgery (cervical) was July 31 so I am a bit farther along; but my class of six children with autism is VERY physical; in fact my assistants tell me that the general concensus in the building (from related services who see all classes) that mine is one of the toughest in the building this year! :SS We also have no light duty or part time....
    I see the surgeon November 21st and plan to have a long talk with him. I understand your frustration totally. I REALLY want to go back to work, but am very nervous.
    PM me any time you want to vent!
  • dbullwinkel said:
    Shell...I am in the same boat as you. I REALLY want to go back to work, but am very nervous.
    Sorry to here you are still having pain. I remember you were having issues with returning to work as well.

    I want to go back so bad, half my students are not receiving therapy right now because I am out. I remind myself every day that this is not my fault or my problem, but I still feel so guilty. My supervisor just cant find therapists to sub. A teacher called me last week to tell me that a first grade student in the autistic support room went to my desk in the hall and asked "Mrs. L@@@@ sick?", it made me cry. I am still on the picture schedule so they dont forget me, they are hoping I will be back soon,lol. They all like my rice bin and shaving cream projects.

    At the same time I wont push myself to soon if I am not ready. That wont help me one bit.

    Good luck to you at your appointment, I will be anxious to hear what they say to you!


  • Shell,
    Discussing your job with your doctor is a good start but I'd go one step furthur. I would have the description of your job in a list form with a place for him/her to initial if it would be all right to do that task. If the doctor feels you can do it all, they should sign a statement saying you are ready to return to work and perform your normal duties. As a retired high school principal and with your type of injury and surgery, I'd want to see something in writing from a doctor before you returned to work.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Thanks Dick, thats a great idea. I will get a copy of my job description to take with me. I know it says right on there that I must be able to lift 50 pounds frequently throughout the day.

    I had shoulder surgery last year, and my supervisor said I could come back, but we dont have official light duty. She said just dont do what you dont feel comfortable doing. It would be allright. Yeah, OK, you know how well that works,lol.

  • Just my 2 cents worth, but in addition to having something in writing from the doc, I would also want a written commitment from the school that they would abide by any necessary restrictions. I had a TLIF in June and can only lift 20 lbs. at this point. I can't imagine doing what you will have to do at school for at least another 2 months, if not longer. I realize that we all heal differently, but a good discussion between you and your doc would be a benefit. Remember, too, that doc's are not always as realistic as they should be!
  • Hi

    I'm in a slightly similar but slightly different position. I'm in college right now and starting my pre-clinical experiences in the classrooms. It looks like I will be having l4/5 and l5/s1 fused in January. I had to come clean with my host school and coordinator. They are being awesome about everything. I have 11 assignments that need to be done and passed by mid-February. The school is going to have me in and finished with everything early in January so the surgery can happen mid-January.

    I told them today that if all goes well and I recover quickly that I might be back in April to finish up the pre-clinicals and student teach next fall. I also said that might not happen in which case I'd be finishing pre-clinicals next fall and ready to student teach January 2010. I'm so bummed that I may have to push everything back. But I need to heal so I can become a teacher one day.

    Good luck to all of you! May you be pain free soon.
  • Adding my 2 cents from what I experienced, over the past 2 years w/ my 3 surgeries (all within a year...) 1st time, with 2 major surgeries only 3 weeks apart, I lost the whole year...was out from Oct to following Sept. Went back to the classroom last fall (07) until my fusion in January & lost the whole 2nd semester. Went back THIS fall w/ heavy restrictions (not BLT, etc etc) & still feel pretty awful by the end of the day.

    Your mind & spirit will want to return but your BODY just may not let you. Shell, you are only about 3 months out & even in January, it won't be that long yet....from your description of you typical day, I'd say it would take a miracle to allow you to do what you've been used to doing. Teaching just drains you, both physically & mentally (as you know) and as much as you WANT to return, you may not be able to. Just a caution for you...

    The driving alone may kill you, as your ability to twist/turn etc is greatly reduced by the fusion. And once you get to school, the day is hectic & unpredictable & how you could manage all that w/o the "no BLT" restrictions (which are totally necessary) is beyond me....

    Be brutally honest w/ your doc. If he/she allows you to go back in January, be sure he/she is very clear on your restrictions,etc. How is your union contract written? Ours is very clear on injured teachers being released for work: if you can't perform at least 90% of your job, you simply are not allowed to return. I can do 90% of mine (2nd grade) but w/ the restrictions in place & lots of adjustments---yet, as I said, even after 10 months now, I'm in severe pain when I get home at night....

    If you do go back, plan on doing ONLY that! Take your nights off, rest on the weekends, cut your social life to zilch & get thru 2nd sememster in one piece. You'll eventually be ready, but I think (from August to January) is too soon from what you are describing.

    Keep us posted! I totally get how you want to return to your students! But your back may have different ideas!

  • I agree that Dick's idea is superb! So please, take not only your "official" job description but also list the tasks that you know really make up your job. Mu experience has been that official job descriptions don't always really describe the job very well. Things like lifting and carrying your cart, lifting children (which can be very different, as you know, from lifting an inanimate object that weighs the same) who may or may not be cooperative, rolling on a mat - all the things you mentioned above.

    I know how hard it is to not return when you feel strongly that your students need you - but you must take care of yourself first or you will not be able to help your students - especially in the long run!
  • And remember: you can't take any major (meaning effective) pain meds while you're teaching! For me, that was the hardest: no dilaudid (or other opioids) or Valuim during the day, only asprin....the pain builds up b/c it't not being medicated & that adds to the whole problem. The pain starts to get out of hand & you can't do anything about it. I use a brace & icepack during the day, but it's not very effective, to say the least. I resort to the heavy meds when I get home at night, but often it's too litle too late...

    So consider that aspect as well. Pain meds allow you to rest & heal...take those out of the equation as well...and if you get a flare & you're at school...well, been there, done that, it's NOT fun!

  • Thanks everyone, my hubby says the heck with the rest of the year. I guess once I get rid of my restrictions I will know more about how I am going to feel. I will see the doctor in 3 weeks,a dn hopefully can set some goals from there.

  • Good-luck Shell, I am returning full time to my RN job on post-partum on the 21st. That will be 3 1/2 months post fusion. I am leary of it as well. My doc was ready to send me back a month ago, but left it up to me. My job requires lifting babies, should be under 10 pounds (most of the time :) ), so that should be okay. I have to push gurneys with ceserean moms from the recovery room, transfer patients (can use a roll board) into bed, help turn and lift chubby ladies with numb legs, help ladies in the restroom which are so tiny it is hard to squat (can't be bending-got to use proper body mechanics), and the hardest on the back by far---breastfeeding help (something about that leaning to latch a baby is just agonizing on the back).
    I plan to get as much help as possible by trading off work. You help me with my patient, and I'll help you with yours.

    Is there anyone else there to assist you? Do your students have aides with them? I wish they could give you an assistant. Not realistic i know. Have you considered doing some other type of OT? I know it is hard to change when you love your job, but I know the OT at my PT office, his job seems much easier than yours. He does mostly hand therapy type stuff. I have considered if I end up feeling like my job is too much I may try to transfer to the neonatal intensive care unit where the patients weigh like 3 pounds and are all at waist height. Or maybe somewhere like pre-op admissions center. Not my true love, which is pediatrics, and I definitely don't think I could go back to that at this point (it is more along the line of your job, lifting kids, restraining toddlers,etc).

    I am gonna give it a try. I have to start paying cobra already $575 a month, so need to return asap. Also they don't technically have to hold my job past 12 weeks. I feel like it is an experiment to see if I can handle it. I will let you know how it goes. It is getting close, one week from Friday already. Wow, how time flys! >:D< Cali-Sue
  • Cali-Sue said:
    Good-luck Shell, I am returning full time to my RN job on post-partum on the 21st.

    Is there anyone else there to assist you? Do your students have aides with them? I wish they could give you an assistant. Not realistic i know. Have you considered doing some other type of OT? >:D< Cali-Sue
    I wish you luck returning to work!

    Assistant, hahahaha, they dont even want to pay us, some kids have personal aides but not many. In the classrooms there are assistants, but if I am working hand over hand with an aggresive child, I am in the striking distance and it would take someone time to come to my rescue.

    I did consider getting certified in hand therapy if I expected to be out longer. I dont like it, but it may be my only choice. Rehab is definetely out at this point. I even considerd a mental health job, but that is risky too.

    We will see, I do have time to hang out, I just need to keep telling myself to have patience.

  • Shell...I to have thought about using my skills in another related area..but would really like to stay in the school system I am in now for the sake of my pension. BUT, I am not optimistic about returning to my special education job this year...That is a great idea about listing all the required movements,etc in the classroom. I plan on spending time this week before I see my doctor next Friday (will be almost my 4 month mark) so I do not forget one thing when I speak with him! I tend to get overwhelmed because I don't think they can ever imagine what a special education classroom is REALLY like! You and I are on the same page....Maybe a video would help :)))
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