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 Richard Deal on December 17, 2009 at 1:40
yes! there are some perks to living amongst germans and putting up with the bureaucracy...
the disabled thing is a weird one, i admit. i initially dismissed it out of hand when the social worker at the rehabilitation centre mentioned it. psychologically i would like to think of myself as able bodied. over here any physical dependance on medication starts you off on the disabled route and you are given a degree of disability between 0 and 100, with 0 being fit as a fiddle and 100 being persistent vegetative state. anyone with a degree of disability of 50 or more is officially "disabled" and starts to see some benefits. a diabetic, for example, would get a degree of disability of 10 or 20 which is, in essence, not worth having. it only starts to get interesting for 30 or more as if you have 30 or 40 you can apply at the jobcentre to be given disabled status - i.e. some of the same benefits as someone with 50 or more - basically the redundancy protection. because i have a degree of disability of 50 to start with i am entitled to a tax free "bonus" each year (don't get excited it amounts to 30 euros a month), an extra weeks holiday a year (which is why i decided for applying) and various discounts for weird and wonderful things as varied as the theatre to transatlantic lufthansa flights (w00t)...
as i understand it i have a degree of 50 because i am still in treatment for the descending dissection, i take blood pressure medication (!!) and blood thinners, i had a stroke, and because of the mechanical valve and prosthetic arch... i have to avoid any extremes of exertion and i am still officially limited to how much i am allowed to lift.
my degree of disability has no expiration date and it will never go down. If i need to have it increased for any reason i have to apply for consideration. the strange thing is that i was told i could hand it in in the uk for the uk equivalent (nice europe). i had to apply for disabled status and the local social services checked it out with my hospital consultant, my gp, my cardiologist and my radiologist so i guess i am "medically" disabled in social services' and their eyes.
i hadn't thought about life insurance... i guess i'll just have to keep on renting ;)
Comment by Graeme on December 16, 2009 at 12:11
Hi Richard

Interesting. Seems we should emigrate to Germany - amazing social safety net! I am intruiged by your statement that you are now regarded (classifed?) as 'officially disabled'.

Is that because you still are under medical treatment for anything not 'fixed' or is it becuase of what happened and thus you are now officially (medically?) classifed as's important to know - particularly with work cover and life insurance in the UK the general take from a life insurers point of view is that you are indeed a risk and you have a permanent 'condition' that can hasten your demise and its very difficult - if not impossible - to get life insurance if you have had an AD - No matter what your age....

My doctors hover have said - BS (!) - you DO NOT now have an existing - let alone life long - medicla 'condition - so get on with your life - you are sorted! Frankly after my annual tests last week - where I did a barrage of tests including ECG, ultrasound and a fully wired up exercise test (where I was told (and the results confirmed) that I was 'well above average' (fit) for my age - and that was based on an average male my age WITHOUT any history of heart surgery/AD! So as far as the medical profession here are concerned. - and myself - my life has not been shortend because of this and I DO NOT have a present condition - which makes me definately NOT DISABLED.

Interesting stuff eh??



ps Yes - i have been on ebay and amazon as well - guilty as charged!
Comment by Richard Deal on December 15, 2009 at 22:43
i have been watching this one waiting for someone to post, but i guess people are getting into the swing of the festive season and haven't had a chance to sit down at the pc and do anything other than scour ebay or amazon...
from my own perspective i was off work just under 3 months. i work for siemens and have been with them now since 1998. i got the full 6 weeks sick pay (statutory here in germany). after 6 weeks the company is "relieved" of my cost burden and my health insurance company had the pleasure of paying me for the next 6 weeks at 66% of my normal rate (this can last up to 18 months). luckily enough i earn well enough to have not slipped into financial difficulties despite not getting my "salary" from the health insurance people until after i had been paid by work again. i guess it must be difficult for people less fortunate. my doctor seemed surprised i wanted to go back so soon and he would have quite happily kept signing me off...
i "drive" a desk and i cannot imagine doing a physically demanding job... i guess the dissection would have spelled the end for me then, however, i am now officially disabled in germany. this means i have an extended redundancy protection - which would have meant if i was doing a physically demanding job i would be almost impossible to get rid of because of the dissection... i guess if the company were willing to throw enough money at it though the "problem" would solve itself ;)
i had the option to start work again on a tiered part-time basis (wiedereingliederung for those of you that can speak german). this basically would mean i would start off on drastically reduced hours and gradually work up to full time again over a pre-defined period. the company would only start paying for me again once i started working over 20 hours a week (50%). i turned this down, because at the time i felt confident i could handle it, and i really don't like working for someone for "free".
luckily for me it was the right decision... my job can be fairly stressful though, so i have to watch it there, although my colleagues are generally more on the ball than me on this one.

i hadn't really thought about work to be honest, as i am of the age where retirement is still a very, very long way away. working was/is my only option and so i didn't really give it much thought... i am currently going through a divorce so i guess my preoccupation with the dissection is how it affects me with regards to relationships in future. i don't have the greatest genetic heritage to offer ;) so i guess i fail the first item on "fraulein helga's" checklist! bummer...
one thing is certain for me though - despite how hard i try not to let surviving the dissection define me to others, it invariably does... despite not wanting to use the dissection as an easy to fall back on excuse, i invariably do... all in all, despite having survived an aortic dissection, a large part of me died and did not get resuscitated that day...


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