Saturday, 19 September 2009

Return To Work

Three and a half years post injury - one year almost to the day since I started to inquire about returning to work, I finally have returned and have actually received a paycheck I can live on rather than the paltry disability insurance (~60% of take home pay).

The return to work schedule which I agreed to with my doctor last January was outdated and so the days and hours of my return were fast tracked. Returned the week of September 8th for 3 half days. The next week (last week), I was to work 3 six hour days, however even though I've been with the same employer for 20 years, I was sent for a full day of orientation on the Monday making it a 4 day week. Next week (week 3) will be 6 hours Monday thru Friday. The following week will be the same after which I'll return to a full 8 hour workday, 5 days a week.

As my private insurer discontinued my disability pay on April 3rd of this year, I'm coasting on whatever savings remain and the assistance of family. This was one reason I wished to be fast tracked back to full time work. I've grown fond of eating...

I was unaware that not only did the pre-injury vacation hours remain, but vacation hours continued to accumulate during my 3.5 years absence from the workplace. I returned to work with about 165 hours of vacation time. This was a lifesaver as my employer suggested I take the remainder of the partial days I worked as vacation time, thereby giving me full weeks of 8 hour days. Because of this arrangement, I received full pay for my first pay period back at work.

Virtually all of my colleagues have remained at my workplace and I found them welcoming and accommodating. Few alterations have been made to the workplace such as table legs and braces recessed in my work area to accommodate my wheelchair, an ergonomic computer keyboard tray which I find more of an annoyance than a help. Other than that, the workplace remains the same.

As I work in a hospital laboratory, regulatory bodies have banned cloth chairs/seats from the lab as a precaution against biological/chemical spills. The wheelchair seat and backrest are cloth covered foam so in order to return I had to cover them with some impermeable material. My wife picked up some black leatherette/naugahyde material which she sewed up as covers for the exposed chair cushions. So far this has worked out well. I had concearns about the material not breathing thereby retaining body heat & perspiration which could contribute to skin issues. My reduced mobility has not been detrimental to my skin and to date, the seat cover has not been an issue. I'll see if both the seat material holds up to daily wear and tear and my skin holds up to the reduced breathability and adjust accordingly. I might argue to the regulating bodies that my seat is not a "chair" but rather "medical equipment" which should be exempt and allowed into the laboratory area uncovered.

The only fear I have remains - the neurogenic 'pins & needles/burning' leg pain remains 24/7 and can be distracting. With the reduced motion while sitting and legs dangling over the seat, the pain may even be accentuated. Also, the sciatic nerve pain in my left side butt continues to flair up every few days, again, making it hard for me to sit without figiting. I worry about my ability to concentrate on my work and not being distracted by constant pain. If I can work around the pain and not be distracted, I should have few other problems.

There are very few, if any places in my workplace where I might go during breaks and get off of my backside to releave pressure and regain circulation.
I guess I'll take it one day at a time...

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