View Full Version : Returning to work???

11-06-2007, 09:59 AM
Hi everyone. I just would like a little input from some of you "older" post op people. Here's my dilemma, if you want to call it that--or situation. I have to make a decision really soon about whether or not I'll be able to return to work in January, and I have no idea right now. I'm an elementary school librarian with a full day of planning for and handling classes of students from kindergarten through grade 5. When I don't have classes, I have individual kids coming to switch books, etc. I also have to fill in occasionally for lunch and recess duties, keep multiple bulletin boards looking nice in the library, and so on. I also have books to handle and re-shelve every day-- probably about 300-400 books each day. The bookshelves go from shoulder height to the floor. I took the first semester off because there was no way I could handle the job starting in August, although that had been my original goal. I was still on too many pain meds and wearing my brace all day, etc., plus hadn't been released to drive yet.

I go for my 6 months check-up on Thursday, so I will know then what limitations I still have. Up till now I've been told not to twist or bend or lift anything very heavy. I know you should squat and not bend to get up and down, but I have arthritis in my hips and knees and don't do that very well, especially since I can't take my arthritis medicine because it interferes with fusion. I can sit on a computer/rolling chair that can go up and down some, which will help a little. I'm just not sure about handling all the books and going up and down--and just working a full day in general. But I still have 2 months until I'm scheduled to return for 2nd semester. I found out last night that I will need to let them know later this week whether I will actually come back or not this year. I just don't know what I'll be like in two more months. How were some of you that may have similar problems like me, at 8 months post-op? My fusion is from T2-L4.

Thanks for any help/thoughts you can give. :)

11-06-2007, 10:08 AM
The repetative movement of bending, twisting, and lifting will wear you out quickly. You will tire easily. If there was a way you could get parent volunteers in there to put the books back, that would help you a great deal and make it so you would be able to do the rest of your job. When my kids were in elementary school, I would help in the library. After one hour of putting books back on the shelves, my back would be killing me. I was in my thirties back then.

11-06-2007, 11:01 AM
Rainbow--thanks for your response. I should have mentioned that I do get some high school workers to help out (although sometimes they aren't much help!) -- they can sign up for it as a class. Sometimes the pickings are scant, one or two at different times of the day, and I have to do much of it myself. Other times they aren't very good and mis-shelve lots of books, making it really hard to find them. Sometimes I get good workers--maybe one each period. If I have high school workers they can help pass out supplies and papers for work at the tables. I start off reading a story or teaching something in the pit, then the kids select their books and get them checked out (by me). I don't know if I could ask for parent volunteers or not, but that would certainly be a help if possible. I'm not sure where the line is that others would think you're not pulling your weight in getting things done or not. That's what I'm afraid of when I'll have lunch and recess duty--especially lunch, when you wipe down all the tables. I can't bend forward like that anymore. Or at least I'm not supposed to. I'm going to be doing a lot of pushing carts full of books around and things like that. If I didn't feel like I SHOULD go back to work, I would definitely take the 2nd semester off. But financially I should go back if possible, although we will make it work out if I can't. It's just so hard to know what I'll be able to do 2 months down the road... And YES, these past few years of working there have been difficult ones with my back, pre-op--it's probably the main reason I realized I needed to do something... I was dead and needed to just sit or lie down to get the all-day-long load off my spine. I always felt so much more crooked after working.

11-06-2007, 12:11 PM
My advice would be if you can handle it financially and if they'll hold your job for you, take another semester off. You don't want to jeopardize your fusion since it takes about a year to be solid. It sounds like your job requires a lot of stamina and bending and it really does take a year-plus to recover fully from this huge surgery.

11-06-2007, 02:18 PM
I would agree with Chris. I started physically back at work yesterday. I'm 8 and a half months post op and plan to do just one day a week from now til the end of the year. I'm lucky in that I can do stuff from home. I felt ready to go back to work a while ago , but took my time. It was tough yesterday, as I have a long commute. Not so much the work as the drive,park, walk etc. ( live in the country outside Paris). If you can, take all the time you need. Don't push it. Hopefullly we do this just once, and take the time we need to recover. Best wishes

Karen Ocker
11-06-2007, 05:26 PM
Would part-time be an option for you? I went back giving anesthesia(stand all day) 6 months post op but had to go home after 4 hours. I gradually worked longer and longer days as well as more of them.
By the way I felt "phantom crookedness" for many months post-op.

Linda W
11-06-2007, 09:28 PM

I agree with the others who have suggested that when you return to work you try to do so with a part time schedule if possible. Be kind to yourself and don't forget that when the library day ends, you still have all the at home "stuff" to handle.

I'm 57 years old with a 12 year old son (Yes, timing is everything in life!), and I spent a good deal of time on the PTO board while he was in elementary school. "Library Volunteers" is a standing PTO committee in many towns in the Greater Boston area. It is a great way for parents to be involved and see what kids are reading. Parents are matched with a schedule when their child's class will be visiting the library. The day is split into morning and afternoon shifts of 2-3 hours each or whatever fits the needs of the library. Volunteers check books in and out, take care of shelving and other projects. The committee has a coordinator who works closely with the librarian and effectively uses email to schedule volunteers. With enough volunteers, most parents come in once a month or every other month. I bet if you asked your PTO board, they would be happy to help. Most parents welcome the opportunity to stay involved especially as classroom volunteer oportunities are limited as kids get older. It is in no way asking others to do your job for you!

Be as direct as you can at your appointment on Thursday about your current limitations and what you see as physical challenges when you return to work. You and your surgeon together may be able to gauge where you will be in two months. Good Luck!

Linda W.

11-07-2007, 10:15 AM
Returning to work is a bit of a "sore spot' with me. It causes me more anxiety than anything else in my life. My bosses and co-workers do not understand the sheer magnitude of this surgery and I can tell when I try to go in and do small things I get in their way. They have kept my position open, even though I told them I wanted something part-time even before i had the surgery. It was all getting to be too much for me physically. My co-workers give me the cold shoulder when they see me and I think they blame me for their extra work load. Even if i was ready to go back to work full time, I can never do what I used to and they are still going to have to take up my slack. This stresses me to no end!!! Our bosses don't want to deal with hiring someone new, they like to stay with the old-timers and everyone just suck up and do it. I care about them and feel like I have let them down by not being able to return and go back to my usual output. So, I find myself NOT going in at all just so i won't have to face this. That is not how I usually deal with things and it has sent me into a pretty deep depression. I feel damned if I do and damned if I don't. So, I stay home to protect myself from overdoing it and hurting my hard earned progress until I can get my head out of my rear and come up with a plan. I guess what I am trying to share with you is, try to keep your safety foremost in your plans, and remember that you LOOK well on the outside, but there is a lot of repair going on inside after a fusion. Best wishes...Lisa

11-07-2007, 10:55 AM
I have read and re-read your posts. It's just so hard! I fully understand your plight, Lisa, and that's one thing I'm afraid of from some of my co-workers... the ones that I share certain non-library duties with--like washing down the cafeteria tables. I know there will be some grumbling about "if she can't do it, then she should find a different job." Same with enlisting parent help, although that's a good idea. I live in a very rural area, the school is small (less than 500 in the elementary), and parental support isn't that great. The library is a pretty good sized one though, with about 13,000 books and is in the center of the school... I am blessed that our PTO group helps with the book fair twice a year, because that is a huge thing. But I probably can't ask for more help from them. And working part-time isn't an option-- it's all or nothing. I'd be at school from 7:00 to 3:30 or 4:00 every day.

My hubby has been so supportive and does so much for me here at home. I just hate to make him feel like I'm dragging my feet, especially since we could use the money. Yes, I look much better on the outside, and I've made a lot of progress, but I'm still having some degree of aching, especially by the end of the day, in my upper back, neck and shoulders-- and in my lower back and right hip. It's hard to imagine what that aching will be like when I am working all day without being able to rest. Then again, we sure could use my little bit of income. Our youngest daughter just dropped the bombshell that she probably won't qualify for financial aid next year at the expensive private university she attends. It has to do with the fact that she'll have too many credits to be considered a qualifying undergrad. She has multiple majors/minors and had a 4 year Lilly scholarship that helped us out immensely, but that ends this year. Anyway, I feel like I should be working so we will have a little more money to go towards helping with her expenses next year... Maybe my doctor will have some thoughts about it when I see him tomorrow, but I think he's pretty much "do what you think you can do"... which doesn't help me much.

Thanks for all your suggestions and thoughts. If you have any more, please shoot them to me. It has helped me to see what you think, although I may have to choose what isn't ideal. Aughhhhh! :confused:

11-07-2007, 11:15 AM
This is a tough one for those of us who have to work. Even now I have to force myself to get out of bed in the mornings. And then I have to do a lot of stretching to relieve the stiffness and achiness. Sometimes I feel like Iím 90 years old. I can only imagine how much longer it will take to get ready to go to work after a big surgery like this. Ideally, it would be great if we did not have the added stress of having to worry about returning to a job and could just concentrate on healing and taking care of bodies. I spoke to a couple of women who waited until they retired to have their surgeries, and they said it was the best decision for them as they could never have returned to their jobs as teachers which entailed standing all day. They were fortunate though to be able to retire in their mid 50s with full medical coverage.


11-07-2007, 02:42 PM
My surgeon said the first three months would be "pretty miserable". Try 5 months! At 6 and a half months I have many more good days than bad. I am driving, work out in a therapy pool (love it!), and had planned to be back as a dealer in an antique shop on Nov1. I really think initially I set impossible goals for myself and as a result became discouraged. My wise and wonderful husband keeps pointing out that recovery is not linear, with each day better than the one before. It is a series of gains made over time. As many others have pointed out---you only want to do this once! I have given myself "permission" to proceed at my own pace,even if I look better than ever-taller,straight,and even skinny. :)
It must be awful to deal with colleagues who cannot comprehend what we go through in order to be whole again. I have been so fortunate not to encounter that. Even the checkers at the grocery were thrilled to see me back shopping again! My advice would be to take the time to heal. Good luck and stay with the forum--these folks are wonderful!

11-07-2007, 03:31 PM
Very well said, Julie -- I so agree that you can't measure recovery day by day but instead gradually over time. Glad to hear you're feeling better.

11-07-2007, 06:33 PM
I give any of you much credit for going back to a full time job after this surgery. & in your 40's-50's & on especially with young children.. It set me back way longer than I ever thought it would & I did'nt feel like doing much until past the 6-9 mth point. Now I was not forced to go back & was able to stay home and looking back, I an thankful for that. I also feel the surgery changed my priorities a lot & I wanted a different type of career/job after this all. I faced depression within that recovery period and did'nt desire to do much. Perhaps having a job at that time would have made me better & pushed me out. Still I feel I needed much alone time thru those months & had little desire to socialize/work.
Now at a little over a year, I feel focused & energized & ready to do more! But it took me about 1 year to feel like my energy level rose up to where they had been before the surgery!!! :) Ly

fused T11-L5/Boachie/Kim aug 2005

11-08-2007, 10:26 PM

I haven't been on here for a couple of months because I went back to work at my elementary school the beginning of August. I had my second revision surgery with Dr. LaGrone in Amarillo on May 21st. Last school year I switched positions at school. I am now the PEIMS clerk, (data entry, student records, attendance, registrar and any other hat that I must wear). Before switching I was the library aide for years!!! My first big scoli surgery was in April 2004. I went back to work in the library in Sept at 5 months post op. I had A/P surgery. I was releived from doing lunch duty and bus duty due to my restrictions. I took quick little lay down stretches in the library in between classes and at lunch time when needed. Instead of pushing the carts of books, I would just take a handful at a time to shelve. We had an enrollment of about 800 kids at the time in grades PK to 5th and everyone came to the library. We had an open concept so teachers could send 2 students at a time from their class. Plus if they came as a class we restricted it to no more than 2 classes at a time. I then went and had another surgery one year later. I went back at 3 months that time, and this year in May I had my third and went back the beginning of August. Actually the library was pretty good because you weren't sitting all the time and you weren't standing all the time. Please feel free you ask me any questions.

11-10-2007, 11:09 AM
Thanks everyone, for your help! We decided it would be best for me to wait to go back to work. Theresa, I think you are awesome! And I think I could probably have managed, but would have been exhausted by the end of each day. I was exhausted before the surgery! This way I'll get the rest of this school year and all summer to build up my strength and endurance. I went for my 6 month check-up on Thursday and my doctor suggested easing back into the job, but again, that's not an option for me. Also, I'm about to begin some physical therapy to strengthen my arms and legs, and that would probably overlap with when I would have to start back to school. Other than the money part, I feel really good with this decision. And we will get by ok. Anyway, thanks for all your comments. You are all such a great support and encouragement! I'm so-o-o-o glad I found this forum--just wish I'd know about it pre-op and sooner post-op!!! :cool:

11-10-2007, 05:57 PM
Susie- I am glad you decided to wait. I had to back up and slow down, too. You'll be much better off. Lisa

11-10-2007, 11:43 PM

If I could have waited longer I would have. Actually I also needed to get back to work because I was starting to drive myself nuts at home by myself. My husband travels a lot with his job and our daughter lives out of state and our son is away at school. I did come home thoroughly exhausted. I was also doing physical therapy 3 times a week. On those days I was able to leave at 2 pm. Just remember to take it easy. I am finally at the point where I don't even try to lift things or push the vaccum. I know that I will pay for it later! After the first two surgeries I kept trying to do stuff by myself. I think I have finally learned it's not worth it. Take care and I hope you continue to improve everyday!

11-14-2007, 11:32 PM
I went back to work full time a little over 4 months after my surgery, I am over a year at this point. I have a phsyically demanding job and I was relieved to be able to stand without the pain. I am not completely pain free but it feels a thousand times better. I watched what I did and now I can pretty much do everything although I do watch what I lift. I am a retail manager by the way. I have to bend alot, however I can do a mean squat. Only you can know when you are ready and you must listen to what your body tells you.

11-15-2007, 01:47 PM
Thanks again everyone, for your help. I think Dawney's response that she does a "mean squat" said it all to me. I am having to relearn/build up to being able to do even an "un-mean" squat. I think because of my back pain and the arthritis in my hips and knees, I haven't really squatted in years... :rolleyes: I am about 18 years older than you too, Dawney. I had some "in home" physical therapy sessions for awhile after my surgery, and continued to do those exercises till now, but they were pretty basic ones. Today I began therapy at a rehab center-- and these sessions are supposed to strengthen and stretch my legs and arms. We did an evaluation a couple of days ago that showed my range of motion was really limited. I can't remember if it was my arms/shoulders or my hips, but one was less than half of what it should be, and the other not very much better. I've been having a real struggle (it hurts my arms and shoulders) trying to fasten/unfasten my bra, take a sweater off, etc. And I can't squat and keep my back perpendicular. Of course, I can't squat and get back up anyway!!! Also, when I walk I am tipping forward some, and to the side a little. I think some of that is because my muscles haven't adjusted to the straighter "me" and need to relearn my center. Hopefully these PT sessions will help me improve so I can do those things again, since I'm not supposed to bend over. Pretty pathetic! Oh well! BTW, I realize full well that there are plenty of people my age and lots older who can do those things. But I can't! :(

Do any of you similar aged (50s and early 60s) scoli people have those problems? Did it get better with time? and PT?

11-15-2007, 11:13 PM
One thing that I have learned is that everyone is different. I am very thankful for what I can do with little pain. You still are recovering and as time goes by you will see improvement. I remember how happy I was when I was able to put pantyhose on. That took a long time. Good luck in your recovery.

11-16-2007, 12:52 PM
Way to go, Dawney! I'm impressed! :cool: I thought those days might be over for good, but was trying to figure out what to wear on my legs when I'm wearing a dress and still look dressed up. My grown daughters (in their twenties) go bare legged, but I always thought I needed to wear pantyhose to look "dressed." Maybe I'll get to wear pantyhose again sometime down the road of recovery. In the meantime, does anyone have suggestions? :o