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 !!