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Teachers returning to work after surgery!

Shell74Shell74 Posts: 300
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 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.

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  • 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.

    @ 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!


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  • 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!

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