View Full Version : Need opinions about going back to work

Chihuahua Mama
04-24-2008, 05:11 PM
Hi all...today I saw my fourth surgeon in my quest to find Mr. Right. One more to go next week, then I'll hand out the Final Rose. :p

So far, everyone agrees I need fusion from T10 to L5, with an XLIF on the side. I'm told this will take two surgeries, and a 8-10 day hospital stay. I'm a healthy 50 yr old, but I'm self-supporting and really worried about returning to my desk job. I'm told that it would be a minimum of 2 months before I can go back to work, but that I wouldn't be fused until at least 6 months, so I'll have to wear a brace (to work).

Is it possible or reasonable to think I could return to work at 2 or 3 months? After reading all the posts here I think the surgeons are being a little too optimistic and painting a rosy picture. Any opinions or thoughts are very, very appreciated.

04-24-2008, 06:17 PM
Yeah, beware of smiling, shrugging surgeons!! Sometimes they make things seem more insignificant than they are to calm your fears. They mean well, of course, but ........
I was around 53 at my surgery. It was in October and i returned to work as a school counselor in January. It isn't a physical job, but I did have to drive 30 minutes each way, walk all over the building, and stand for lessons. I learned the hard way that i should have started back on half-days for a while first.... which i did this past year after revision surgery.... Older and wiser lol....
As far as bracing, it depends on your surgeon. Mine and some others these days believe it isn't necessary, since you will have "internal bracing" with the rods and other hardware to keep you in correct position while fusion takes place.
Plan for lots of help around home after the surgery, unless you are like some of the SuperWomen we have here....lol.... Personally, I needed friends and family to help. Your forum friends will always be here to help with advice when you need us, also....
Best wishes to you!!

04-24-2008, 06:36 PM
First, I wish you great luck with your surgery.

As to whether or not the surgeons are painting an overly rosy picture compared to the testimonials on this site, I can offer the following...

When I posted that my daughter's surgeon told us kids are usually back to school in three weeks and that the printed material I was given said that most kids were back by three weeks, a uniform chorus of folks here responded that in their opinion and experience, three weeks was NOT the usual or average but in fact was a very optimistic, best case scenario, etc. etc. time frame for return to school.

I must say my confidence in my surgeon wavered a bit on this point when I read those posts. And it mattered because if the real average recovery time was double what I was told, I would have likely postponed her surgery until the summer (or at least asked some very close, pointed questions about the EXACT risks associated with doing so). But I did more searching and note that the SRS and Scottish Rite ALSO suggested that kids usually return by three weeks. So all these scoli sites and my surgeon are saying the same thing (three weeks for most kids) whereas most of the testimonials indeed say about double that period for a return to school though some were earlier.

In fact my kid did return before four weeks and could really have gone back closer to three weeks, as advertised by my surgeon for the usual kid. And for all I know, maybe her return to school at three weeks and five days was LATER than most of his other patients. I would have no way of knowing if that was the case or not.

My only explanation for the disparity between what the scoli sites and our surgeon says on the one hand and the testimonials here on the other is that there are just too few folks here posting testimonials. The "n" is too small to make any conclusions about average, usual, etc. patients. I wish there were far more people posting far more data on this forum.

I would keep this well in mind when reading the testimonials here since date of returning to work is likely very important for you.

Your best bet is likely some close questioning of each surgeon about actual cases that were similar to yours and when these folks could return. The more cases the better since there seems to be so much variation out there.

Also, there may be some things you can do that would really make a difference in when you return and your comfort when you do. My daughter walked as much as she could as soon as she could. She sat in a chair as much as she could as soon as she could. I believe both these things contributed greatly to her recovery being close to "usual."

Again, good luck.

04-24-2008, 08:10 PM
Hey Chihuahua Mama-- that is such a tough one. I had planned to return at 3 months but ended up not able to, but my job wasn't a desk job. And my fusion was longer, T2-L4. I think it would be a do-able thing, probably, but it's so hard to tell. Can you ease back into your job if needed? Like working half days or just a couple days a week at first?

I had started a thread awhile back when I was trying to decide what I would do. If you want to read what some of the responses were, here's the link. http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showthread.php?t=6450&highlight=returning+work
You can probably do a search and find more too. Here's another link I just found about returning to work: http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showthread.php?t=5155

Everyone's surgery is different and so are their recoveries. If my job had been a desk job, I think I could have toughed it out and survived, but it would have been hard. We are all pretty tough cookies though, aren't we--? We get through the aches and pains of our scoli before surgery. If your options are limited, then you'll probably be able to tough this out too, but there are so many variables. I was still taking pain meds at 3 months and wearing my brace. The brace wouldn't have interfered, although not the best looking accessory, but the meds would have. You aren't supposed to drive if you are taking narcotic pain medications... although I think some people do.

Best wishes as you try to figure this out. I imagine you'll hear from many people. And keep in mind that a lot of people that recover sooner than some us return to work and aren't busy reading and posting on the forum. Take care. Susie

04-24-2008, 10:46 PM
I think everyone's situation is going to be different, depending on the surgery, age, all that good stuff. I am going back to work on May 5th, 6 weeks after surgery, however, I only had one surgery and my hospital stay was 5 days. It has not been easy and I may only be able to work half a day when I start back up but I am sure going to try. I think the best thing to do is trust yourself on when you think you are able to handle it and listen to your doctor. You know your body more than anyone and you will be able to tell when you are overdoing it. There has been days I have tried to do too much around the house and I have had to tell myself to slow down. Take your time, you don't want to rush back before you are ready and end up hurting yourself. Good luck, you'll make the right decision.

04-24-2008, 10:50 PM
I forgot to mention that I am in outside sales so when I do go back to work, like Susie Bee said, I will ease back into my position. Luckily, I can work inside the office and do my job from there until I can get back outside. That will take me much longer. I am able to drive on my own now, but I can't see getting in and out of my car all day long for a while!

04-25-2008, 06:39 AM
I have the same fusion they're proposing to give you, and I'm about your age (a little older, but who's counting, heh-heh). There's absolutely NO WAY I could have gone to work or even driven the car at two months post-op. I think five or six months is a much more realistic goal to shoot for. Regarding the brace -- I actually missed mine when I weaned off it because it provides pain relief by taking some of the pressure off of newly positioned muscles. Plus, it warns people that you're fragile.

Also, there's just no comparison at all between a teenager's recovery (usually amazingly fast) and a middle-ager's recovery.

04-25-2008, 09:57 AM
I must say my confidence in my surgeon wavered a bit on this point.

I know what you are saying. I had serious reservations about my surgeon when on my second appointment with him I asked him how soon I would be able to return to work and he responded in six weeks. And at that time the plan was to do anterior/posterior from T4 to the sacrum. I left his office thinking that maybe the majority of his patients were adolescents and young adults. I have since learned that the opposite is true. He treats many older adults. So I donít know why he would have said six weeks. Perhaps he meant six months. That certainly sounds more realistic based on what Iím reading here from women who are in the same age range and in talking to women from my support group.

loves to skate
04-25-2008, 11:23 AM
Hi Chihuahua Mama,
I'm glad your surgeon said a minimum of 2 months. I'm sure a few very resiliant souls might be able to go back to work in 2 months, but I'd be willing to bet that for most people 3,4,5 months might be more realistic. I stopped my oxycondone at about 2 1/2 months and while on it, I couldn't even concentrate enough to read a book. I am 4 1/2 months post-op, and if I wasn't retired, I believe I could have gone back to work at 4 months post-op to a job requiring half standing, half sitting maybe half days in the beginning. You will need time during your day to get a 30-40 minute walk in and then at some point you will need to go for physical therapy which can be time consuming. I send my very best wishes to you.

Chihuahua Mama
04-25-2008, 03:46 PM
Hm, I knew I'd get the straight scoop here! I realize surgeons have to eat like the rest of us but do not understand why they make it sound like a walk in the park. People have to plan around these surgeries - I for one receive 100% of my pay on my companys short term disability policy for 6 weeks only, then it's reduced to 75% - that's a big cut. If I go on my surgeons advice, I only have two weeks of reduced pay, but if I plan more realistically, I would be on 75% of my pay for nearly 4 months! Ouch.

thanks much for the responses...and Singer...give or take a few years? Heck...who's counting! LOL

Chihuahua Mama
04-25-2008, 05:21 PM
I had started a thread awhile back when I was trying to decide what I would do. If you want to read what some of the responses were, here's the link. http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showthread.php?t=6450&highlight=returning+work
You can probably do a search and find more too. Here's another link I just found about returning to work: http://www.scoliosis.org/forum/showthread.php?t=5155

Thank you Susie Bee....This is great info.