Am getting this quick post up as I have noticed that "going back to work after an aortic dissection" has figured fairly prominently in a few searches on the Google analytics statistics for the site and it is of course - a VERY big deal. OK. Going back to work. I have so many mixed feelings and memories here. Frankly, in my case it took 3 months just to get my head around what had happened along with the physical healing process. Those 3 months were also spent getting to grips with the new temporary and permanent limitations on my body. As I was/am self employed I did not have a finite time window to get back to work. The next 3 months (after the first 3 months after the event) was the real healing time when I got my body back into an exercise regime, the chest wound had healed, and I was getting used to (sort of!) the 'clicking-whooshing-thumping' in my chest from the artificial heart valve. Most of all I now felt that I was not going to die.. well not just yet! This was of course the mental healing process- as it was as protracted as the physical process.
Apart from my wife - who really knew what this was all about and how it had altered our lives so dramatically, our close friends and family sort of now regarded what happened as very interesting - and I was very lucky - but it was sort of old news...So what about work colleagues ? - To be honest I did not tell many people I work with the full story - as from my perspective I felt (and still do!) that my 'condition' would put me at a competitive disadvantage in my 'employers' (clients) eyes. (As to our 'condition' that's ANOTHER story - and another blog entry very soon- as I think after we have recovered we do NOT have a 'condition' - but try telling that to a life insurance company - grrrr...!!) Here I might add I am self employed so this was fairly easy to keep to myself)
Personally, I think that 'if' I was not self employed and I was working as an employee, going back to work would have been quite frightening - as well as the thought of keeping working in the years ahead. This is for 2 reasons. The first is that from my experience with the new breed of (mostly self serving and frankly quite ruthless) HR people today in large companies and their total lack of sympathy/understanding - and based on this happening to people mostly over 50 (who are already usually being pushed hard these days into redundancy) this would I think add enormous pressure and worry to you.
Secondly, as we know, worry and stress takes on a whole new meaning after your event. ANY extra stress and worry is an absolute NO-NO. And again that's just not for the immediate period after your event. For me now - that's for the rest of my life - to AVOID stress where ever possible. So if you are worrying about keeping your job - as well as the normal day to day worries that your job throws up - that's a pretty nasty environment to work in. Now - I am NOT SAYING THAT this is the scenario for all AD survivors in the workplace but - It has been a fairly regular background to some of the AD survivors I have been in touch with. Times are tough here in the UK economy and the US, and to a lesser extent in other parts of the world. Also to be blunt, ageism is rife in the workplace.
Age - of course - is one of the determining factors here. If you are younger (under 40(ish!) I think you have a better chance of re-implanting/immersing yourself right back into your work/career without any drama than someone over 50. The other thing is - and I HAVE NOT met anyone who says otherwise - after an AD - and even after the healing process has finished(?) - you NEVER have the energy you had before the event. That - is a very real consideration to take into effect with your return to the work place. I am still a bit of an 'OTT' over-achiever and my work output is still high, however some evenings I am absolutely exhausted - and it's not just about age.
So I guess in a round about way this sets up the answer to going back to work after an aortic dissection. IF you have a great job, a great boss, wonderful work colleagues and an understanding HR section, and you can keep the stress down as much as possible - get back to work as soon as you can - it will be very therapeutic! However this scenario is sadly not usually the case, and as most of us have fairly major financial commitments most of us have to go back to work - whether we have a wonderful work environment or not.
If you don't have all the above factors in play (and most of us don't) - a good set of resolutions is to when you get back to work try and take it easy for the first three months - it takes time to get back into the 'hurly burly' of the workplace. Especially try and avoid stress as much as possible, eat sensibly, keep your work hours to the allotted time (try and avoid overtime!) eat proper meals - including taking time off for lunch(!) and get plenty of sleep.
The other option is retirement. It's a VERY big decision and depends entirely on your personal situation - both health wise and with financial independence. However, again, many AD survivors that are older have taken this route seeking to downsize their stress levels and to also increase their quality of life.
So when best to go back to work. It's ENTIRELY up to you! But remember - we have ALL been given a second chance here. Let's NOT waste it buried in our work or in front of a computer. Get up, get out, laugh, hold your loved ones and friends close - and tell them you love them!. Carpe Diem!
I would be DELIGHTED to have some discussion on this subject!. It's a many faceted, complex, highly emotive and highly personal issue - but it's why this forum is set up - for us all to help each other with our own experiences and thoughts..so lets hear from you!