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UPDATE *** YAY *** I'm back to work on Monday!!!!

SueDSSueD Posts: 545
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Chronic Pain
I know that some might say that I’m going back to work too early, considering my ongoing chronic pain issues (and new symptoms besides). However, I have managed to persuade my local doctor that I should TRY going back to work - just to see if I can, because the alternative is to never go back at all without trying first.

So, I’ll be starting a phased return to work on Monday over 4 weeks. My managers have been so accommodating and have bent over backwards to help me, which I am so thankful for.

I was very nervous meeting them a couple of weeks ago to discuss ‘a way forward’. In the back of my mind, I knew they had already refused my return to work early in December and, because more restrictions had been added this time, I had geared myself up for an awful meeting, with all negative comments about me and their refusal again to allow me to return to work. I was quite pessimistic, if I'm honest.

My manager, Human Resoucres and Union representative and I discussed all the problems of my return and came up with a 12 weeks plan. Obviously, if I cannot resume my normal duties after that time, then there will be dire consequences for me, I’m well aware of that. But I’m so relieved that at least I have been given the opportunity to try. It's so important to me psychologically as well as financially.

My work invovles driving, continuous bending, carrying resources, working at floor level and sitting on very unsuitable chairs in clients homes and, for the first 12 weeks, I will NOT be doing any of this, which is so supportive - and I'll also be working 4 days instead of 5 so I can rest my back on Thursdays (all the adjustments were recommended by the Occupational Health doctor). But obviously I cannot expect this to continue indefinitely, as they are fundamental aspects of my job.

I have no proof that my last surgery (22 December 2011) was a direct result of me undertaking these tasks, and my surgeon actually wrote to my doctor stating that these duties WILL definitely increase my chronic pain and will possibly adversely affect my future recovery. If I encounter any problems, my manager will be having weekly meetings with me so I can let her know quickly and try to resolve it somehow, but I hope everything goes smoothly of course.

I am not so silly that I'll resume normal duties after 12 weeks and 'hide' any increased pain issues, like I did before - because I never want to have spine surgery again and will be extra protective of my back this time - afterall, it's possible to try and get another job, but I can't get another spine. So I will be extra careful this time round for my own sake and not theirs.

I have worked out that since being in this job - a total of 26 months, I have actually been off for about 17 months!!! all because of my back condition. It's an awful sickness record and no other employer would have me, I know that.

I think that mentally, going back to work can only be a good thing for me because I’ve already been off for SIX months so far – and staying at home, not being able to do anything too physically/mentally challenging has been soooo boring! I have lost brain cells and the ability to concentrate because of it - and possibly the medication hasn't helped, but I am hopeful that being busy at work might even take my mind off of my pain (plus I’ll be able to take my breakthrough medication at work if needed too) – so it’s all good!

For anyone else having problems at work or trying to return, I really hope you can find some common ground with your employers - it is very important to have people present who support you 100 per cent. The deciding factor in my case was that the Human Resouces lady and my Union man both worked very hard to overcome all the problems that my manager put forward. If it was left to my manager alone, there were so many barriers that I don't think it would have happened at all.

I can’t wait to be part of the workforce once again – to have the rapport and banter with my work colleagues again. Obviously I desperately want it to be successful (that's up to my back!), but if it isn't, then at least I will know, for sure that the job isn't for me but I would have given it my best shot for a successful outcome.

I would be interested to know if you encountered any problems returning to work, what adjustments were made for you, and was it successful in the end and? If not, what happened to prevent it?

2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!


  • Sue:

    I am so happy to read your post. I can feel your excitement and anticipation. It's something I, too, have experienced.

    Good luck and Godspeed. Stay in touch.

  • You and I have talked in the past about work, as I went back to work a year after my L4/5 TLIF in a strenuous position, but with a very good company that I love.

    I thought you might like to hear my one-year update - yes, I've been back to work just over a year (time's flying - I must be having fun :))) ).

    First, I love that you have a phase-in plan, after all, you're really not that far out of surgery although perhaps the revision wasn't quite as bad as the original fusion? I don't know...

    Anyway, it's been both good and bad. There are times when I have to do some heavy lifting and must keep moving when I really need to sit, but those times aren't very often. Although my job requires lifting, twisting and bending, I can alternate resting, sitting, walking and doing the other things I need to do.

    It's good they know your situation - my boss didn't know mine when I was hired and after being there about a month, I told her about my back and that I knew there were requirements to be able to lift 50lbs., but I was having to push 150lbs. uphill to the next building and was having a hard time with that. She told me that my job is 90% mental and 10% physical and she hired me for the 90% part, not the 10% part. She said that all I need to do is call her if she can help because she'll just chalk it up to her exercise program. LOL

    Also, because I have known the men in my area, the Building Services guys, from when I worked there 10 years ago, it only took a little while for them to realize that I'm not lazy, I just need help once in a while moving boxes, etc.

    They've been very good about telling me to ask for help when I need it, taking over some tasks that the person before me handled, and I share some of the tougher duties with the guys and others, even ladies, in my area.

    I always wear a back brace when lifting, but sometimes I wear one all day if I'm having a rough time.

    I've found that it's actually been very good for me, both mentally and physically. The mental part is obvious (like you stated, the commeraderie, income, contribution to the household, etc.), but the physical part is that I'm working out some core muscles that actually make my neck and back stronger. I try to work smart, accommodating my back and neck as needed whatever I'm doing.

    I do have ongoing mechanical pain issues from some of my duties, but am also able to take medication during work when needed (they don't space me out, I've been taking them too long for that). But I feel that my cervical area is better than before because of the muscles that have been strengthened doing my job. I think they're the same muscles they worked with in PT after my ACDF.

    I hope you have success phasing into your job and are able to work out ways to make your job doable. All you can do is try, and things do evolve as you go along, so what may be difficult at first my be revised and/or easier later.

    Take care and keep us posted. I know that it will probably be seem to hard at first, but hang in there and see if things improve naturally.

    Good luck and I'm happy that you're finally getting back to work. I so hope it works out and you're able to keep this job. I have a good feeling about it.

  • I wish you the best. ( And I am jealous ) I would give any thing to get back to work.

  • you know what i think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    so good luck
    tony x
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    I wish you the best. And hope this works for you!
    But remember, it is what it is. And if it's meant to be, it will be.
    Give it hell, but don't hurt yourself!
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • I think you will find that feeling useful once again, will help you heal physically and emotionally. Sure you will be tired and sore initially, but I found the elation of being actively involved again to be a powerful medicine.

    Best wishes to you and let us know how it goes.

  • Cathie - your comments have been really encouraging from your own experience, thank you. I'm glad your return to work was so successful.

    Backache99 - Yes, I do understand what you think and my family are of the same opinion, but I suppose I'm stubborn and will not be satisfied until I try it first. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I won't do any more damage than has already been done (I hope) because I'm going to be extra careful this time, so I think it's the best thing for me. If it doesn't work out, then I'll not go through life wondering "What if". This is a make or break decision for me and I'm gonna know soon enough if I can make it work or not.

    Airborne72 - Thanks for all your help Jim, you know what I mean, and I really appreciated it!! I'm just so relieved my employers have been so helpful this time round and not so obstructive, like they were before. I hope you are still managing to work ok - have you made any decision yet about whether to have further surgery or not?

    Painkiller - Jim (a popular name today!), I am sorry you are not able to work. But, in a way, you do have a job from what I have seen because you encourage, participate and advise from your personal experience here on Spine Health. Ok, it doesn't pay, but it is very worthwhile nonetheless and helps so many people (me included).

    I feel like I'm starting a new job tomorrow - getting all my clothes/resources ready - I'm so excited.

    Thanks again x

    Thanks everyone and, Tony, I do understand
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Your post must have arrived whilst I was replying to the others.

    I'll still be popping into Spine Health of course, because I'm interested to see how other people are getting on.

    I'll probably post an up-date after the 12 weeks are up. My physical and mental strength won't be tested so much until then.

    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!

  • I'll be thinking of you tomorrow as you venture back into work.

    I really hope that you can slowly ease your body back into work. Do be careful and take it easy.

    It is great to hear how supportive your work is being this time. Long may that last.

    Wishing you success!
  • How are you getting on? I hope everything is going well for you too.

    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Sue:

    Going back to work is some what like the first day of school. Life is funny.

    Pace yourself. Only you know what your limitations are.

    Good communications with your employer are so important through this process. Don't hesitate to tell them how you feel.

    And, thanks for keeping a secret.

    My situation - I am scheduled for a discogram on April 10. As I understand it, I will not be provided any anesthesia so I am mentally preparing for a few minutes in Hell! Revision surgery or extending the fusion a few levels higher will be determined from that test. I'll post the outcome on the forum.

    Enjoy your first day at school.
  • Hi Sue :H ,

    I am so happy to see YOU so excited, but most of all feeling good =D> :D !! That's wonderful. I don't know how many times within the past 4 years I have told my husband I would gladly trade in this horrific battle with pain for my job (on disability now). Wow! Sick world when you Wish you COULD work, hey? :))( Just kidding.

    Now ... as all your other "Parents" have told you, please be careful and just ease into it. No time to backward now, girl. You are very lucky to have an employer that DOES understand that you are a person and not a robot. Keep us posted.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Best of luck to you on your first day back. I can totally relate as I am a nurse and was faced with the decision of what to do career-wise, after having my surgery and subsequently being diagnosed with AS. All you can do is try. At this point, try not to even think about it not working out. Go in with a positive attitude and take it as it comes. Be aware of your limitations and do not push yourself to do anything that you are not comfortable with. I ended up switching careers and was fortunate enough to find a desk job as a telephone triage nurse. I feel that everything happens for a reason, and I feel truly blessed with the way things have worked out. I have been at my job for nearly 8 months now, and I absolutely LOVE what I do. I work weekend program, which is about the only thing that sucks about it. However, I look forward to going into work and enjoy being apart of the working world again. I can relate to you, as I was out of work for 10 months after injuring my back. It was a difficult time and going back to work was a bit nerve-wracking. But I am so glad I did it and I look forward to many more years in my present position.
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