Aortic dissection & aortic aneurysm information support group

Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection

Working after an Aortic Dissection - Or going back to work!

Hi everyone!

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 lets hear from you!


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Tags: aortic, back, clearance, dissection, fitness, human, medical, resources, to, work

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Comment by Sharon Masterman on April 7, 2012 at 0:44

Hi there...Well, the DVLA have decided to take Davids HGV licence away; this happened almost a month ago and he is griefstricken. He so so so loved his job. He is opening up as to just how tired he HAS been feeling since he went back to work on Dec 15. I can now observe him on a day to day basis and yes he struggles. All I can say is the DVLA might have (in the long run) done him a favour - not that he would agree. I am so glad he is home and I can enjoy his company and perhaps be of some comfort to him. I know some good WILL come out of this awful mess. I just pray now that the good Lord will give us lots more time together, we have missed so much with him abroad driving. When I read these blogs I just fill up with tears God Bless everyn one of you xxxxxxx

Comment by Kev A on June 5, 2011 at 20:49

Damn - think I've stumbled on this too late - or at least had my AD too late!


I can't wait to get back to work!  I have my boss and family saying it's too early - but when is too early?  I feel pretty good these days (6 1/2wk post op now) and generally ready to go in and do a few hours.  All I had was an AD with surgery lasting only 6 hrs and being pretty young I feel fit and ready.   


Work was deep in my thoughts from the hour black right through to recovery.  I also have a big sense of debt to my boss as well.  As we're a two man operation, he's now under a lot of stress and when the AD struck he had to leave his family holiday early to sort things out over here.   Maybe I'm feeling pressure to get back asap

Comment by Patrick Gethin on January 29, 2010 at 21:37
Well I am going back for the second time on Monday 2nd feb. I don't know whether I will feel more stressesed or will just take it as it comes, think of it as a return after s holiday:-)
Comment by Maria Trinidad Herrera on January 24, 2010 at 18:57
It was very interesting reading the replies for this blog. I went back to work about 11 weeks after my type A Aortic Dissection.
To be honest, I did not even consider to investigate the possibility of disability. Perhaps knowing that my salary will be cut in half had something to do with it. Also, the feeling of being classified as "disabled" bothered me somewhat.

Actually, going back to work has been very positive for me. For one, it helped me feel better physically and emotionally. May be that I do not have time to think about how I feel. Second, knowing that someone needs me is very rewarding, although it can also be frustrating. Additionally through work, day to day, I discover the "new me": I have a different perspective of life, which includes small things that bothered me before, do not matter now.

Moreover, I am one of those people that want to save the world but do not know how. One of the strange, but positive, things that have happened after the surgery is the feeling of having a key in my hands. What to do with that key is not completely clear yet. But I am sure it will come.
What becomes frustrating sometimes, is the not too positive feeling of not having enough time to do what needs to be done. Very often I have the strong feeling that my life is not going to be too long, therefore, I get anxious and want to do everything in one day. This sometimes scares me, because my journey for saving the world has become some kind of an obsession.

Have some of you experience something similar to this after your surgery?

Happy New Year to everyone and Salud!

Maria T
Comment by Marion Millington on January 12, 2010 at 11:12
Getting back to work has been a really difficult one for me, I started my own business in 2006, it was a consultative and training business, I am accredited to deliver qualifications up to degree level in business management, and I delivered programmes in the UK and around the world. My business was starting to grow and was extremely successful, but intrinsically it was mainly just me.

So when I suffered my dissection in June 2008 my income just stopped, besides some ongoing programmes and the fact that I have been able to sell some educational materials I was unable to continue my business. Initially my dissection was treated medically with lot and lots of meds, but I couldn’t get insurance to travel abroad and the job that I did was quite physical as I travelled a lot, carrying cases computers and equipment and the lifting restrictions also meant that this was impossible.

I had critical illness insurance which I claimed on, but of course AD was not an illness named on the policy so they refused it. I had luckily taken out insurance that included a clause that said if I couldn’t return to my current occupation they had to pay, my GP, surgeon and cardiologist all wrote to say that while I may return to work in the future, I would never be able to do what I was doing at the time of my dissection, they still refused and spent a long time looking in to my medical records trying to find an excuse not to pay me, they made a lot of two bouts of high blood pressure that had been identified but because my blood pressure return to normal I had never received any treatment for it. They still wouldn’t pay as by this point my surgeon had decided to do the mend, they said they wanted to wait at least six months and see if I recovered sufficiently to return to work, again my health professionals wrote saying that the repair would hopefully give me quality and quantity of life but would not allow me to return to my former occupation; the insurance company disagreed.

I can’t tell you how much this company p***** me off, but I wasn’t going to give up or die just so they didn’t have to pay. I took my case to both the financial ombudsman and I also got it taken up by the BBC One Show team who featured my plight a few week before my first opp, they agreed to pay me the day before the show aired and four weeks later the ombudsman man confirmed that they had to pay, this was 10 months after I had first made the claim.

Like Graham in those early months I was told to apply for benefits but being self employed and my husband being self-employed meant that the only thing open to me was disability living allowance, but one look at the form and you soon realise if you are at all honest you are not going to be considered.

I didn’t have an employer good or bad and I don’t have something I can return to easily, at the moment I am investigating a government body who help disabled people build business by supporting them with help and equipment, I would like to set up some distance learning programmes for individuals, so wish me luck with that.

When you should go back to work is such an individual issue, just as every dissection is different, everyone’s prospects and recovery is different, what they can achieve both mentally and physically is so personal. The trauma our bodies have been through with the tear, the repairs and the ongoing treatments is substantial. Recently I have come off some of the medication I took in the first year before the repair and was amazed at side effects all the medication had. My husband said to the surgeon at our last meeting “thank you for giving me my wife back,” he wasn’t just talking about the mend the reduction in medication has for me had dramatic effect.

The one thing I have realised is I spent the first 50 years of my life driving myself to achieve to be “successful” I was a perfectionist in everything I did, I created pressure and put demands on myself that were totally about my own self achievement. When my dissection happened the people who were there for me were family. So today they are my priority, they get my time and attention.

The next 50 years of my life will have very different priorities yes I know we will have to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table and we will find a way to do that, but the drive for achievement and successes with all its trimming has definitely left the building.
Comment by Patrick Gethin on January 5, 2010 at 21:56
I was off work from 17th September 2008 and went back to work in march 2009. I had a staged return and with that ,some days off and bank holidays it took 14 weeks before I did a full 5 day week:-)
i was very aware of the stress and the fact that people didn't understand that as I only worked part time I could not answer their questions as quick as they would like.
Comment by Julie on January 5, 2010 at 17:03
I'm in the U.S and was just approved for permanent disability. So I'm home with my baby and enjoying every day with him instead.
Comment by Alison Roberts-Pagent on January 3, 2010 at 18:04
My doctor thinks I should avoid being labelled as disabled and keep working 'till I drop to save the NHS even more money! Luckily my employers are far more understanding than my my GP.
Comment by Richard Deal on December 17, 2009 at 18:00
merry christmas to you too and also anyone else reading this! may we all have a happy and healthy new year and a peaceful, regenerative festive season...
Comment by Graeme on December 17, 2009 at 12:03

That's amazing! So what happens if you ever return to UK with your permantly disabled status? Do you keep it? I tried to sort of get this after my AD but I could not even get a disabled parking permit! I had/have all the fun and games and new bits you had/have except for the ongoing treatment for descending dissection.. Glad in retrospect I didn't get classified as disabled anyway ..but your case is a screaming example of how NO-ONE really understands AD and how to classify it and deal with it and the aftermath...

If we don't talk on the forum again before Xmas have a great one and look after yourself!




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