My work journey
My employers of 20 years have played a huge part in my heart failure journey, my salary is above average, I am lucky my benifits include full sick pay for all sickness up to 4 months, mypension is good even if I doubt I will use much of it but death benifits will secure my family after I go.
At the time of my Diagnose my career was at it’s peak in Cornwall, I was recognised as good at my job and opportunities looked good and more importantly I loved my job, I felt 100% confident in my abilities so what has changed over the last 9 years?
My 1st long lay off was 4 months and I returned to a new challenge in Glasgow, looking back I know now I made my 1st mistake & was in denial of my chronic progressive heart condition, I didn’t lie to my employers I just didn’t tell them the truth because even I didn’t know the truth. Did they support me? I don’t think so & what we had was 2 sides not trusting or understanding each other.
My return to work should have been slower & more structured, not once did I meet occupational health because I returned saying am fully recovered, i should have excepted maybe a drop in role & salary was best option instead salary was everything to me. Nobody had that conversation with me & they basically believed me.
My personality had changed, my mind was muddled, I fought to hide it but only made it worse, the problem was not physical it was purely psychological, paranoia at Center of it, negativity had replaced positive. Motivation was a daily problem, I so wanted to work but would question was it worth the hassle, in reality when death was once a real possibility but you live. Your mindset becomes “is this really worth it, shouldn’t I be doing something more with my life”
When I talk to fellow heart patents now about them returning to work after being diagnosed I say what my GP said to me “you have been through a life changing event at a relatively young age, it will change you” I only lasted 2 years before again I took even longer off, my career in a job I once loved was hanging by a thread.
My involvement with my employers prior to my operation & return this time after device fitted and being uniquely 100% dependant on it was again handled poorly by me but I had no one to ask, I had no fellow heart patient to take advice off. I fought my employers, I hated them for my perceived injustice when what I should have done is admitted my own faults and tried to find the best job for me irrelevant of salary. Now I am level below on lower salary, I still struggle at times but am green performer. I once again enjoy my job.
So 9 years on I find myself in the ideal job again so what has changed? Simply through my direct manager & now regional team I feel confident to openly talk about my condition & problems to them & I simply trust them, I will never reach the peaks of my career but I am experienced wth so much to give & for 1st time I can talk to my manager & personnel manager about appointments, fatigue and illness. I have explained how I struggle in meetings, They ask & offer support I belief is genuine, it has been such a learning curve on how to handle a chronic progressive heart condition & work. So many mistakes on both sides but hopefully we both can use my experiences for future patients returning to work, more of us are living so it is happening.
At a course a few weeks ago in one room were 6 people out of 20 who have played huge part in my work journey, 2 were very bad memories but I realised majority were good. One I wanted to apologise to for basically receiving the worst my condition made me. The regional people manager mentioned to this group my End2End & I thanked her after it for everything she had done during my End2End, she spoke about changing culture and I believed her, I trust her. I wanted to so hug and thank her because for 1st time I believed my employer was willing to learn about how to support those with my dilemmas. She has spoke consistently at meetings in the last 2 years about leadership & it’s importance so I want to tell her she is leading the way & I have seen the change for good within our company.
Within next 2 years my device will be changed and I once again will need to return to work after long lay off but I will approach it so differently and I believe they will too because of those I have mentioned above. I will approach my return more open minded, I will ask for more time but not expect or demand it, I will be honest with myself on how I am feeling both physically and mentally and more importantly if not up to job I will ask what they can offer but not demand anything. Hopefully we can reach a decision that suits us both because presently they have a highly motivated experienced employee who hasn’t had day off sick in 2 years do both sides benefit.
Employers need to learn due to medical advances more will return to work with medical issue like mine but they will only learn if more like me speak up. It is scary to admit failings but I have seen positive changes so it does work, I have hope for heart patients & future work opportunities.
*The opinions expressed are the bloggers own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Health Innovation Summit.