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To all the teachers who have had fusion...

nelnnel Posts: 402
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am a secondary school chemistry teacher in the UK. I had PLIF at L5S1 on 16th October and am due to return to work on 4th Jan for half days until I see my surgeon on 12th Jan. If he sees evidence of fusion then he will release me to work full days. I am only part time so actually only really do one full day a week so it's not too big a deal (I hope).

I am worried about how well I will cope when I go back. I am fairly old fashioned and my lessons are pretty much chalk and talk so I spend most of my time stood up. I have had a few rough days recently when I have "done too much". The thing is that too much seems to only be standing/sitting for too long!

I am also concerned that the people at work are expecting me to be normal when I go back. As we all know it takes ages to get back to normal after this surgery. As it is my heart still sinks every time I drop something on the floor! Loads of people seem to think that I should be totally fixed by now. Even a close friend expressed surprise when I said that I am still suffering muscle pain.

I supppose what I am looking for is three fold:

1) Reassurance that I will actually be ok
2) Any ideas on how I can make my work day less challenging on my back
3) Advice on how to explain to colleagues my physical situation.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Helen
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1

Comments

  • There has got to be activities you can do without standing--also,do you have students in your class that could "teach"?-that is kids who you can depend on-you could make it a fun thing-also,be honest with the kids---they want to know how you are feeling,and will want to help you---I will keep thinking--I am a former art teacher,which is way away from science,but it also required constantly being on the move---
  • as far as colleagues go-be honest with them-some of them will totally understand,some of them will wonder why you are't running a marathon-but that is their problem---you need to take care of YOU-and not worry about others. Teachers are notorious for gossiping-don't worry about it.
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  • LOL! Teachers are really bad for gossip aren't they? I have been trying to think of different ways to do the teaching without needing to spend too long on prep. I am hoping that when the other staff actually see me they might get it a bit better. Its not like I ove very fast at the moment!
  • Hi Helen! I applaud what you'll be attempting to do--returning so soon to the rigors of the classroom..take it easy, don't rush to be F/T unless you absolutely must.
    Here's some things I did when I returned from my PLIF: (I was out a whole semester, as I had priors & a lot of fall-out from those) Try: Wear your back brace to remind both you & others that you are NOT healed or normal, yet. I wore a soft brace which helped w/ some support & also restricted my side-to-side motion to prevent those automatic reactions to classroom chaos--esp the quick bending over & twisting we are so used to doing (lifting--no, don't lift anything!) I also appointed a "helper of the day" to pick up dropped stuff, tidy the room, run errands, etc. Kids loved it, & it saved many a day for me. Another thing: vary your positions, ie: stand awhile, sit awhile, walk as much as possible. I still can't "hold" a position for more than about 10 minutes, but neither can my little ones, so that wasn't much of a problem. I can't sit to save my life, so I stand/walk all day. When standing, if you can get one leg up on something, it helps. Also, reduce your social life (at home life) to almost zero. Come home, rest, take any meds you couldn't during the day (THAT was a problem--no drugs @ school!) use your ice, etc. whatever....save your energy for school. Be a hermit if you must. Protect yourself, think of yourself 1st, something that we are not accustomed to doing. And people WILL talk, give you "advice", tell you that you "look great/OK/fine" blah blah blah...they assume b/c you are THERE that you're all OK again..well, NOT! I never bothered to explain anything to anyone who had not had spine surgery. People just don't get it. And those who have had surgery will be gentle w/ you & ask how they can help, etc. Surround yourself w/ kindred spirits....& forget the others. People will notice if you are slower, moving carefully, etc. That will "tell" them more than words can just how fragile you still are.
    Helen, I wish you the best. I truly know what you are facing. Give it a try, heed your NS adivce on returning FT--don't rush it--if you short yourself on recovery, you will regret it. The muscle pain will last a long time, BTW. And after a busy day w/ your students, you will feel it muscularily the most. That's why you need your down time @ home to rest @ night---your spine is now mechanically different & your body it still adjusting to different load-bearing etc. Take care of yourself! And keep us posted on your progress!
    Best to you!
    ~Lakeside
  • Try using a stool to sit on periodically. It's also helpful for putting your leg up on (be sure to wear pants though :) ) as previous poster mentioned.
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  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Can you sit and use an overhead projector type device instead of standing and writing on the board? Or use a combination of both methods depending on how you are doing?


    Even if you don't have a brace maybe pick one up at a pharmacy or medical supply store. I agree that wearing one will signal to others that you are in recovery from big time surgery.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Thanks again for the replies. Sorry for my slow response - blame it on christmas!

    I do have a soft brace given to me by my physio. I thought I may wear it for support and also, as Lakeside said, to show that I still need help.

    You are so right about all the advice! "Oh when my back was bad...." etc.

    I have a fairly supportive chair that I can use in the lab and when I have to sit I will use that. I hadn't heard about resting one leg up whilst standing - will give that a try too.

    I had thought about using an OHP but was worried about the bending over it. Also my front bench is often used for demonstrations - not too sure how I would go about clearing the space. I do think that I might have to use one though.

    My main worry is that if I can't return to full days after the 12th then there will be timetable issues. School aren't exactly being very helpful. They have know all along that I would need to return on half days to begin with but they left it to me to work out how that would work. It is only due to the fact that our kids have mock exams so are off timetable for the first two weeks of term that I have managed to arrange a way for it to work.

    Also - at the moment I am managing to walk most days and swim about 3 times a week. Am I going to have to let this bit of my recuperation go? I am scared that the muscle pain could just be too much with work and exercise.

    I do want to go back to work - don't get me wrong, but I am worried at the lack of preparation/thought on their part. I obviously don't want to ruin all the hard work so far. I just hope that I cope better than I think I will. Maybe I am being too pessimistic and they might actually have things organised for me !;)

    Thanks for all your support guys. It is really nice talking to people who understand.
    Helen
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    You may find that returning to work exhausts you and causes a bit of pain, at least in the beginning. Thus you may want to cut back on any exercise in the early stages of return to work until your body can take both work and exercise at the same time.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I am a PE teacher/College Baseball Coach.. I went back to work after 6 weeks of surgery. I found out that sitting was more difficult than anything.. However, what I did was bring a "soft" ice pack to work with me and put it in the teachers lounge.. Once a day I sat for one of my classes and iced my back while I taught.. It has been a piece of cake for me.. I had L5/S1 as well.. Am doing great!
  • nel said:
    I am a secondary school chemistry teacher in the UK. I had PLIF at L5S1 on 16th October and am due to return to work on 4th Jan for half days until I see my surgeon on 12th Jan. If he sees evidence of fusion then he will release me to work full days. I am only part time so actually only really do one full day a week so it's not too big a deal (I hope).

    I am worried about how well I will cope when I go back. I am fairly old fashioned and my lessons are pretty much chalk and talk so I spend most of my time stood up. I have had a few rough days recently when I have "done too much". The thing is that too much seems to only be standing/sitting for too long!

    I am also concerned that the people at work are expecting me to be normal when I go back. As we all know it takes ages to get back to normal after this surgery. As it is my heart still sinks every time I drop something on the floor! Loads of people seem to think that I should be totally fixed by now. Even a close friend expressed surprise when I said that I am still suffering muscle pain.

    I supppose what I am looking for is three fold:

    1) Reassurance that I will actually be ok
    2) Any ideas on how I can make my work day less challenging on my back
    3) Advice on how to explain to colleagues my physical situation.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

    Helen
    Helen, as a newly retired teacher due to disability, I can honestly say that you WILL be OK. It's very difficult going back at first. My lumbar fusion L3-5 was on 9/24 and I too was released back to work the day after xmas break 2 yrs. ago. It was difficult, but I talked to the students and explained that I wasn't back to 100%. For the most part they were understanding, but being middle school kids, some were still very self-centered.

    Do you have an overhead projector or LCD projector in your classroom? You could write out your notes ahead of time and either:

    1. With the overhead, sit on a stool as you lecture, making adjustments with a marker as you go, or

    2, With the LCD, sit at your computer, making adjustments to your notes while sitting at your computer.

    Just remember to keep your life as simple as possible. Is there some sort of writing assignment you could give the kids the first couple of days? You're going to feel like a duck out of water when you first go back, out of sorts, and not really sure what you're doing.

    You don't mention what subject or grade level you teach. I am a French teacher, and before the holiday break that year, I had the substitute pull a unit I had on the history of French and it's influence on English. With a little bit of lecture on top of the information provided, and many written assignments, I was able to use the extra time to get up to speed as to where they had left off in the book. I prepared lessons for the book to start the weem AFTER I had gone back.

    As far as your colleagues go, I am cynical enough to say s***w 'em. If they don't understand what you've been through, and expect more from you than you are capable, tell them to take a long hike off a short pier. The only person you need to keep up to date is your direct supervisor - the principal or whoever. As long as they know your limitations, what the rest of the faculty says doesn't matter.

    I'm sorry if I sould a bit harsh. I was forced into early disability retirement due to my physical and mental isssues (which you can see in my siggie) and I am somewhat bitter. As of 12/31, I will have lost a job I loved. I am moving into a new line of work which I can do from home online, and love.

    Like I said before, don't force yourself and overdo things. if you take it easy at first, you'll be back to yourself in no time.
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