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My Return to Work After An Operation: Case Study

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 1 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Work Occupational Health Back Pain Risk

Unexpectedly, George Duns began to suffer from severe lower back pain. He was reluctant to take time off from his desk job, but in the end the pain was such, he had no choice.

Diagnosis

“I’ve always been a grafter so I hated the thought of being off work - especially with something like Back Pain. It sounds like a poor excuse.

“The back pain was real enough, though. When I finally saw a consultant, she diagnosed osteoarthritis of the lower spine. She started me on the appropriate drugs and referred me to a pain management clinic. I was also booked in for a spinal steroid injection – a sort of mini operation.

“Obviously, I let my manager at work know what was happening. He was good about it – he knew I didn’t take liberties with sick leave, anyway. And when he heard about the osteoarthritis, he said he’d look into the matter further. "

Poor Work Prospects

“Frankly, I didn’t know what my manager meant by this. I thought I was finished with work. I wasn’t that far off retirement anyway, and I couldn’t sit in an office chair and use a computer like I used to. So I thought my employer would give me an early send-off. My continuing work prospects looked poor.

“I couldn’t have been more wrong, however. And I’m glad I was because the thought of early retirement combined with the osteoarthritis was making me depressed."

Occupational Health

“Anyway, I was sitting at home, propped up on various cushions, trying to stay comfortable, when I had a call from my manager. He wanted to come round to see me. And If I didn’t mind, he wanted to bring someone from Occupational Health. I wasn’t going anywhere, so I said come round when you want.

“A couple of days later, my manager turned up with a colleague from the company’s occupational health section. They listened to what I had to say about my condition and treatment. Then they asked if I wanted to return to work if I could.

“’Of course!’ I said. So the occupational health person starts saying what the company can do for me. She explained I could have a special chair – designed to ease my back pain and help me stay upright as comfortably as possible in front of a desk.

“She also said the company could supply a tilted computer keyboard, a raised computer monitor, and document holders. The combined effect of all these would be to improve my posture and reduce the need to move my back unnecessarily.

“My manager then said that when I returned, he’d organise a Safety Risk Assessment for me. This would ensure I could work safely, and leave the building promptly in the event of an emergency or fire.

“I replied that I couldn’t walk fast, and I doubted I could manage the stairs. My manager told me not to worry because he thought the company could get hold of a chair with tracks designed to take disabled people up and down stairs.

“I hadn’t thought of myself as disabled until this point, but I could see what he was getting at. Both he and the occupational health officer were very good, in fact. When they left, I was feeling much better in myself."

Back to Work

“Three weeks later, following the steroid injection in my spine, which made the pain more bearable, I returned to the office.

“Everything was in place – the new chair, computer equipment, and so on. I even had a footrest.

“My manager conducted the risk assessment, and we talked through my mobility problems. Then I got back into my work routine. I’m set to retire in a year or so, but I’m delighted I could return to work and do something useful until the big day finally arrives.”

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