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Safe to return to work?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm a 41 year old male Police Officer in relatively health condition. While working I re-herniated a disc during a physical altercation with an arrestee in which my neck was hyper extended by considerable force. After months of rehab and 3 injections I ended up getting a Prodisc-C implanted at C4-C5 due to that injury. The Doctor says that I have mild DDD and that my C5-C6 disc is not so healthy. My concern is that over the past 10 years I've had 5-7 incidents during arrests, fights and training incidents that have aggravated my herniated disc, sometimes for days other times for weeks. I'm can't seem to get a straight answer from my Doc on the consequences of another injury such as the one I suffered, causing the need for this surgery. I've been searching the internet for answers but have come up with little to no info. I have two young children under 4 years and I'm afraid of becoming disabled due to another injury in my neck. I have considered retiring on disability but I don't want to if there is little to no chance of failure of the Prodisc or surrounding discs. The only thing the doc would say is that he can't promise or guarantee it won't dislodge or cause the adjacent disc to rupture. He said it would take a strong impact to do so. He did recommend transferring to a less physically demanding position within the PD. Unfortunately I work for a small department where the only options are patrol, investigations or promotion to management. I'm currently in patrol and investigations and promotion are years out of reach. So I would really appreciate any advice from people with similar circumstances or with knowledge of positive/negative results due to prodisc-c implants.

Thanks, Lance


  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,732
    You have a physically demanding type of work as i did. your doc., I'm hoping you mean a specialist, nuero, or ortho surgeon. Won't actually can't give you any guaranties, neither can anyone else. But if he releases you to back to work and you chose to do so. I would get ex rays and mri's periodically to compare to the last one to see if any more damage is occurring. At any rate you will have to treat your DDD with tender loving care.
    Good luck Jim
    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!
  • One of the things we all here have to learn is to look after ourselves first. Only by doing that can we look after the ones we love.
    In other words- is it worth risking your health (seriously) by staying in a job that may cause it further damage?
    What would happen if you could not ever lift your child up again just because some drunk decided to hit you hard?

    I am not saying this to scare you just to put it into perspective. What is more important- Job or family & health?

    I haven't had neck surgery I have lumbar fusions and I can tell you know there are things I choose never to do again even though I may want to. It is just not worth the risk.

    Take the pension and find something else to do that may be realated but not so physically demanding.

    Blessings Sara O:)
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  • Hi and welcome to spine health.
    Its totally up to you.
    There is no right or wrong answer.
    It is what you feel comfortable with.
    Not one dr is going to guarentee anything for any patient.

    So I won't tell you what to do. Alot of people from the old site went back to their demading jobs after full recovery.

    I wish you the best of luck!!!
  • Lance, I think with the ADR's being so new, there is just not a lot of info yet on what can happen with re-injury. I am a lumbar fusion patient but am dealing with returning to work as well. I am a RN and I work 12 hour shifts. My NS says I can go back to work this job, but I am scared of getting hurt. Now I don't expect any physical altercations, but I do take care of post-partum patients who seem to pass out a lot the first time they get up. Sometimes there legs give out from the epidurals still working. So that is my biggest fear is having someone fall and instictively trying to catch them. I have been thinking if there are better areas to work. The only place that seems a little safer is neonatal ICU where the patients average like 3 lbs. There aren't any openings there currently, but it is something I am gonna keep in mind.

    You definitely have a high risk job and I think it is a personal decision how much risk you want to take. I would think any area of law inforcement is going to come with similar risks. As much as we hate to think about it, there is always retraining to a new field. I have considered returning to school to get my masters in nursing education. For now I am going to return to my job on Nov. 21st and hope for the best. Good-luck, Cali-Sue
  • I too am in a high risk job (army infantry) ive been in for 7 years and fully expected this to be my career. I dont really have any usefull civilian workforce skills. Now the army wants to medically retire me im 32 and retirement is the farthest thing from my mind. But i know that i can never again fulfill my job requirements in the army as much as its a bummer and how upsetting and frightful it is i DO have to think about the possibility of if i was to stay in my current job being "inadequet"(sp) which could get me or my fellow soldier injured or killed. I just keeptrying to tell myself that even this door is closing another will open. In your position theres always the possibility of some jack fighting you back and you reinjuring yourself and becoming worse, My wife is a police woman so i do know the sense of duty you have .....maybe go to school for EMS or firefighter or something ...just a thought...i wish you the best of luck!
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  • I am a special education teacher with physically difficult children; the students the local districts do not have a place for. I have been injured TOO many times at work...but I really love my job. I am having a slow recovery from my july 31st surgery and have had a setback recently.
    It is very hard making these "life changing" decisions, but ultimately everyone has to do what is best for themselves. I just wish I knew what that was for me :??
    Good luck in making your decision. Can you take as much time as needed to hopefully help the healing process?
  • Lance,

    Welcome to Spine Health. You sound like most members here, that once you make up your mind to do something, it's "all or nothing". That's me! I had to give up a job that I absolutely loved, because I can't just do it "okay", I have to give it everything I have and it was ripping me up.

    I'm a very athletic individual and have had to endure too many spine surgeries. When I'm not hurting, the furthest thing from my mind, is protecting myself. All I think about is what I'm doing, or reacting without thinking.

    If you read some of the recent stories about members just recently out of surgery, what are they doing ... they are overdoing it because they feel better.

    Someone in your line of work doesn't have time to "set the stage" so that things go the way they need to in order to keep you from possibly injuring yourself. Just something to keep in mind.

    Cali-Sue is right about ADR's being so new that there's not enough data to support an honest answer to your question.

    Terri is right, that there's no right or wrong answer.

    I know it stinks. When I get in situations like this and I need to make the "hard" decisions, I get out paper and a pen. I write down the pros and cons of whatever it is I am concerned about and force myself to look at the stark reality of the answer it formulates.

    I hope you can find your answer.

  • Injuredranger - First off, thank you for your service! I retired from the military after my time in the sandbox. Just a couple of things for you to consider - even if the military medically retires you, employers look for leadership skills and discipline. With your background, you will be able to get a job outside the military. As a matter of fact, check into Federal jobs at your base. An injured veteran gets priority hiring treatment. Another option could be going back to school. GI bill should cover you almost 100%.

    As far as jobs after fusion, I wouldn't recommend starting in firefighting/EMS. Grant it, the location of your fusion has a lot to do with what your limitations may be. My fusion is L4-S1. Heavy lifting is out. I got out of the fire service for good after my fusion. At 42 yrs old with two kiddo's, I don't want to end up handicapping myself. Lifting large patients can be a problem on the EMS side. I work on the state side (regulatory agency) now. I can't imagine myself lifting a bariatric patient with just one other person now. Also, assaults in the back of an ambulance have been on the increase. Drug abusers don't like to be "secured" to a gurney. They will try to get out.

    Main thing is, don't get down if the military decides to medically retire you. One piece of advice, if they do proceed with it, you may have to go before a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). If they tell you that this will be required, request representation through your Area Defense Counsel. Those lawyers in the military are for your protection. They can make sure things are done appropriately.

    Good luck!
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • Injuredranger, I would also like to thank you for your service. I can't even begin to imagine what military personnel sacrifice to serve our country. Being away from family and missing their kids grow up is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Haglandc, most of my injuries have been caused by my reactions to protect the citizens of my community as well as fellow officers. Each time has been a split second reaction to stop someone else from getting injured without consideration for my own safety, including the incident that ended up causing me to need surgery. My fear is two fold now. Knowing that I have this chunk of metal in my neck and a weak disc below it, I fear I may hesitate to react next time. The last thing I want is the guilt of someone else being injured in part due to me. Knowing me, most likely I won't hesitate and may end up even worse off than before.

    Angelback, I totally agree with you, my family does come first. I struggled with guilt the past few months with not being able to play on the floor with my daughter or being able to pick her up. With another one on the way I really want to be healthy for them as long as I can.

    J.howie, my doc is an Ortho that specializes in the cervical spine. He's not much of a talker so I have to keep asking questions. As far as I can tell he did a great job because I'm progressing nicely. I'll know more once I start Physical Therapy and test this sucker in my neck.

    Dbullwinkel, I have also had my fare share of dealing with combative students. Most of the time the teachers are the first to physically restrain them so I know exactly where you're coming from.

    Cali-Sue, I've spent a lot of time in the E.R. with drunks and arrestees claiming health issues. I see what the nurses have to deal with and I totally respect medical field personnel.

    TerriJV, I like your slogan, "BRING IT ON BABY!!!! I can handle the world!" My new slogan is, "I break easy, so don't hit me!”

    Thanks for everyone’s advice and support.

  • Lance,
    I posted yesterday but my posts dissappear! X(

    Anyway, short in case it vanishes agai, I wanto say, Life is really short.
    you said you ahve children too. Don't risk more heart ache in the family. Think smart about what you may be able to do jobwise that will not put your mobility at risk.
    The fact you are asking this question tells me that you doubt your role.

    If you had not asked the question, you would be career focused and damn the consequences.

    Just think of this as a forced change of dircetion and I am sure in the future you will look back on it and glow.

    Good luck. I feel for you. I am in a similar situation where job role will need to cahnge too, eventaully.
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